The central motivation of law enforcement has shifted from peacekeeping to budgetary solvency.
According to Mother Jones, this year's high-profile police shootings stem from many cities using minor law infractions as revenue generators to plug funding gaps in budgets.
When you ask why such "bad" cops are nevertheless armed and allowed to patrol the streets, one begins to see that lurking beneath this violence is a fiscal menace: police departments forced to assist city officials in raising revenue, in many cases funding their own salaries—redirecting the very concept of keeping the peace into underwriting the budget.
The ever-increasing demands on local and state governments to provide services requires larger budgets. As politicians realize that promises to increase taxes tend to hurt their electoral chances, fines and fees make up the shortfall.
Often, the most efficient way to increase those non-tax revenues is with the local police force. Ta-Nehisi Coates explained in detail the role this method played in Ferguson, Missouri. It's no surprise that this method falls disproportionately on the poor and minorities. With a weaker political influence, complaints will go ignored and unanswered.
The combined problems of fiscal insolvency and expansion of police duties creates greater problems. It reflects a cognitive dissonance problem between what citizens expect from a city and what they're willing to pay for it.
"Essentially, these small towns in urban areas have municipal infrastructure that can't be supported by the tax base, and so they ticket everything in sight to keep the town functioning," William Maurer, a lawyer with the Institute for Justice who has been studying the sudden rise in "nontraffic-related fines," told Mother Jones.
The expansion of government power threatens to poison relations between the police and the public. As that dynamic grabs headlines, basic financial insolvency gets ignored. Both problems, sooner or later, will need to be addressed.