Things That Matter

There’s A Long History Of Police Violence Against Latinos Going Unrecognized And That Needs To Change

As the United States starts to confront racist and deadly policing culture, it remains difficult to understand the true scope of the impact of police brutality. In recent years, a number of activists and media outlets have taken it upon themselves to collect data of police violence since there is no federal database of information. And through this reporting, we’re learning that Latino victims of police violence are often severely underrepresented.

New report alleges that at least 2,600 Latinos have been killed by police in recent years.

The level of police violence in this country is deplorable. Between 2014 and May 9, 2021, more than 15,000 people died in police custody or in encounters with law enforcement. And a new report released by UnidosUS indicates that deaths of people of color are severely undercounted.

As part of its initial effort and awareness of the limitations of its method, the newly formed group, the Raza Database Project, analyzed eight national databases that track police killings and used a combination of news reports and public records. Researchers took a closer look at entries that were identified as “White,” “Other,” or “Unknown” and compared the names to the surname datasets from the 2010 US Census to spot any individuals who may have been misidentified. After the group’s analysis, the number of Latinos increased about 24% from 2,139 to 2,653, the report states.

Roberto Rodriguez, the project’s director, told CNN that the group’s estimates are not comprehensive but they offer a more accurate look, especially because of the gaps in government-level data collection.

What’s leading to this massive undercount of Latinos being killed by police?

Experts have pointed out that law enforcement agencies often lump individuals into broader racial categories and not ethnicities. The lack of a standardized system for reporting police killings means that Latino victims are often categorized as Black or White. This by itself can lead to severe undercounts of Latino victims.

Activists and family members also point out to the historical legacy of police brutality against Black people, which is well-known and documented, dating back to the slave patrols. Many Americans view immigration as the primary concern of Latinos. In addition, Latinos as a group include a variety of cultures with different lived experiences.

“I think society has this notion that [police violence] is a Black and White issue, and not for Latinos. It’s kind of like, ‘That’s not your issue. Your issue is immigration,’ ” Rodriguez told CNN. But the number of Latinos killed by police is “off the charts,” he said.

The report was released as calls for police accountability have increased following the deaths of Latinos in police encounters.

Two recent shootings of Latinos in Chicago – a city long plagues by police violence towards racial minorities – pushed community members to demand changes to the Chicago Police Department’s practices and policies, and prompted Mayor Lori Lightfoot to announce last month the city’s police department must implement a foot pursuit policy by the summer.

Thanks to the Black community’s incredible work to increase police accountability and awareness, and its bold vision for defunding the police and imagining a system that serves the people, the vicious killings of Latinos are starting to gain national attention. This is the manifestation of “when Black lives matter, then all lives will matter.”

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