Jun 3, 2021 - Politics & Policy

An undercount of Latinos killed by police

Deaths involving U.S. police
Data: UnidosUS and U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Over 2,600 Latinos have died at the hands of police since 2014, more than double what had been known, according to an ongoing study.

Why it matters: A year after George Floyd’s death, data on Latinos killed by police or while in police custody remain scarce.

  • A Latino ethnicity is not plainly visible since Hispanics can be of any race. Researchers say victims often get lumped into “other” or “unknown” categories.
  • The Raza Database Project, based on data from scholars, activists, lawyers and demographers, dug into the undercounting of Latino victims by also looking at a person’s last name and other characteristics.

Between the lines: The lack of standardized data from police departments, either for causes of death or ethnicity, makes it unreliable and inaccurate, researchers say. Reported causes of death include shootings, use of physical restraints, stun guns, and “medical emergencies” suffered while in custody or during arrest.

  • The death of 27-year-old Carlos Ingram López, in April 2020, was registered as likely due to cardiac arrest. But a video showed three Tucson police officers had held him face down while he said he couldn’t breathe.

The intrigue: Houston’s mayor and police formally apologized this week to the family of Joe Campos Torres, a Mexican American man who was beaten to death by officers in 1977 and whose killing sparked riots and massive reforms. It was a case that defined police excessive force against Latinos in the 1970s.

The big picture: The Raza Database has so far documented over 32,000 police-related killings since 2000, 20% of them Black people and 17% Latinos.

  • The results are similar to a Washington Post analysis examining police shootings since 2015, which found that Latinos are killed at a rate 55% higher than white non-Hispanics and that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans.

What they’re saying: “The numbers of Latinos and African-Americans killed from police actions since 2000 are somewhat similar. The difference is that Latinos are rarely mentioned when discussing violent police treatment,” Roberto Rodríguez, Raza Database Project’s director, told Axios Latino.

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