Be Warned: This video is the most disturbing of them all
It appears like we have an ongoing problem with policing in this country that seems to be getting worse. SF summarized it nicely in a comment yesterday:
Law enforcement at all levels often goes directly to violence in a non-violent situation.
It does seem that way. In the Louisiana Alton Sterling shooting the video is kind of blurry but he doesn't seem to be in a position in which he posed an immediate and direct threat, reports are that after the shooting police officers removed a gun from his pocket.
In the Minnesota Philando Castile shooting, the shooting itself is not on video, the report is that when asked for his license and registration he reached for his wallet while informing the officer that he was armed and licensed to carry, when the officer said "don't move", he went to raise his hands and the officer fired.
In the Pennsylvania David Kassick shooting the police officer was acquitted of all charges.
Crime in the US peaked in roughly 1991 at 5897 per 100,000 people, that year violent crime also peaked at 758 per 100K. Today (2014 data) the crime rate stands at 2971 per 100K, a rate not seen since before 1967's rate of 2989 per 100K. Violent crime stands at 375 per 100K a rate not seen since 1971's 396 per 100K.
Let's just look at violent crime since that would presumably get one shot by a police officer.
In 1971's era of 396 violent crimes per 100,000 in population police officers fatally shot 248 people. At the peak of 1991 with violent crime at 758 per 100K police officers fatally shot 149 people. In 2014 with the violent crime rate 375 per 100K police officers fatally shot only 122 people.
Let's summarize that:
1971 - 248 people killed by police - 396 violent crimes per capita
1991 - 149 people killed by police - 758 violent crimes per capita
2014 - 122 people killed by police - 375 violent crimes per capita
What is the difference between 1971, 1991, and 2014? The prevalence of personal, portable video recording devices. Watching the videos elicits a visceral emotional response. To be honest I thought we had a problem, when reading SF's comment "Law enforcement at all levels often goes directly to violence in a non-violent situation" I initially agreed with it, after examining the statistical data I'm not so sure anymore, and I must admit I was surprised.
The per capita death by cop rate:
2014 - .04 per 100,000
2004 - .06
1994 - .07
1984 - .08
1974 - .13
1964 - .09
1954 - .08
1944 - .06
1934 - .18
1924 - .23
1914 - .11
1904 - .10
1890 - .09
1880 - .06
1870 - .05
1860 - .03
So as you can see, you have to go all the way back to somewhere in the 1860's to achieve as low of a rate as we have today. I'm not saying that we don't have any problems, that policing can't be better, that it couldn't be improved greatly.
Perception is a strange thing. When I was a child in the summertime we were kicked out of the house after breakfast, allowed back in for lunch, and kicked out again until dinner. We roamed all over the neighborhood pretty much unsupervised. If lucky, after dinner and after dark we would get to go out and catch lightning bugs or play what we called flashlight tag (think hide and seek in the dark with a flashlight). Today parents wouldn't dream of doing that with their kids, and if they do they may get arrested for child endangerment. They call that style of parenting today "free range" and people question the sanity of the parents, but statistically, it is far safer today then it was when I was a child.
This post is specifically addressing the general climate and makes no attempt to address socioeconomic, cultural, or racial factors. We'll save those for another post.