In the United States, Latinx, Black, and historically oppressed people of color have been disproportionately targeted by the police force for decades.

This comes at no surprise, especially in recent years, with the racial reckoning in 2020 and the deaths of Black and Latinx people at the hands of police, many of which began with a deadly “routine traffic stop” and resulted in no justice served for the lives lost due to state-sanctioned violence.

This is exactly why identifying racial bias and misconduct by local law enforcement is essential to tackling the systemic racism and oppressive force the police in states across the country have historically perpetuated.

A recent investigation conducted by Propublica determined that there is underlying racial bias present in Louisiana’s law enforcement agencies’ record collection.

Local law enforcement officers have been accused of “targeting Hispanic drivers in traffic stops and identifying them as white on tickets.” This misidentification makes it difficult to track racial bias.

“Of the 167 tickets issued by deputies to drivers with the last name Lopez over a nearly six-year span, not one of the motorists was labeled as Hispanic… The same was true of the 252 tickets issued to people with the last name of Rodriguez, 234 named Martinez, 223 with the last name Hernandez and 189 with the surname Garcia,” according to Propublica.

This misidentification is not unique to Louisiana, in fact, it continues to take place all over the country and some states in particular, with a predominately Latinx presence, have a history of being racially profiled by law enforcement.

By failing to collect accurate information during traffic stops and even intentionally choosing to hide “officer misconduct and aggressive immigration enforcement by identifying people as white on tickets,” reveals this misidentification issue sets the stage for a much greater racial injustice, and racial profiling in particular, present in America today. 

This is not the first time we have seen local law enforcement officers disproportionately targeting Latinx and POC drivers. This is especially prevalent when state-sanctioned, anti-immigrant policy is at the forefront, such as Arizona’s notorious racial profiling law as a prime example.

SB1070 was Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law, also known as the “show me your papers” provision which legally authorized police to demand “papers” and investigate immigration status if they suspect a person is undocumented.

Similarly, it allowed police to arrest without a warrant “if they believe they are a deportable immigrant,” according to the ACLU. This bill gave the state and local law enforcement the authority to racially profile and ultimately determine what police and citizen interactions should or should not be reported accurately.

By failing to collect accurate data and identifying “Hispanics” as “White,” this action presents the false belief that racial bias simply does not exist because “if everybody’s white, there can’t be any racial bias.”

Ultimately, this has a negative impact on Latinx communities. Not only are we being disproportionately targeted, but our instances of discrimination and racial profiling are failing to be accurately reported.

As a result, Latinx people are experiencing discrimination at far higher rates than reports fail to showcase and it is essential we begin to address just how significant racial bias is present in local law enforcement agencies in order to receive the proper support we, as a Latinx community, deserve.