May 30, 2023 - World

Rate of Latinos killed by police skyrockets

April Sanchez holds a sign in memory of her son Ryan Ronquillo during the Colorado Latino Forum discussion June 8, 2016, in Denver to discuss the impact of police shootings of Latinos. Photo: John Leyba/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The rate of Hispanics killed by law enforcement officers jumped nearly 45% in the last decade, according to newly released data reviewed by Axios.

The big picture: It's been three years since George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police, resulting in a worldwide racial reckoning and protests against police brutality. But little data exists on how police violence affects Latinos.

By the numbers: Latinos killed by law enforcement hit .26 per 100,000 residents in 2020, up from .18 in 2011, a study published this month in the Journal of Community Health found.

  • The researchers examined mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from 2011 t0 2020.
  • New Mexico, the state with the largest percentage of Hispanic residents in the U.S., had a rate of 1.02 per 100,000 residents —more than twice the rate of any other state. A surge of policing shootings in Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 2014, led to a federal consent decree for the city's police.
  • Colorado had the second-highest rate, with .49.
Stephen and Renetta Torres hold a portrait of their son Christopher, 27, who was shot and killed by Albuquerque police in 2011.
Stephen and Renetta Torres hold a portrait of their son Christopher, 27, who was shot and killed by Albuquerque police in 2011. Photo: Russell Contreras/Axios

Zoom in: They found that Hispanics accounted for nearly 20% of all people killed by police between 2011 and 2020 and that their rate of fatal encounters was 1.33 times higher than the rate for non-Hispanic whites.

  • Latino men between the ages of 20 to 39 and those living in Western U.S. states have seen the greatest spikes in deaths caused by police.
  • More than 50,000 years of potential life among Hispanics were lost due to fatal police encounters across all ages, the study concluded. The researchers calculated this by subtracting the age of those killed from 80 (the assumed life expectancy) and then adding those figures for all of the people killed.
  • During this decade, the Latino population grew by 18.3%, while the number killed by police grew by 61.4%.

Background: Researchers cautioned that the CDC's mortality data had limitations, and the rates may be even higher.

  • That's because police departments and other agencies don't keep standardized racial and ethnic data.
  • Jagdish Khubchandani, a professor of public health at New Mexico State University and co-author of the study, said researchers used population and police shooting trends to help develop the rates — a methodology reviewed by Axios.
  • A Washington Post analysis examining police shootings since 2015 found that Black Americans are killed by police at more than twice the rate as white Americans. Latinos are killed at a rate 55% higher than whites, according to the Post.

What they're saying: "The perception is that police brutality is exclusive to African Americans, which is not true," Khubchandani told Axios.

  • Khubchandani said the lack of public health research about Latinos and how Americans focus on a Black-white dichotomy when discussing race contribute to the lack of information about Latinos' police interactions.
  • He said many police departments remain primarily white and male, fostering systemic racism.

Between the lines: Latinos have always known police killed Hispanics disproportionately but rarely had the consistent data to prove it, Max Markham, vice president of policy and community engagement at the Center for Policing Equity, told Axios.

  • "In the majority of cases, law enforcement themselves are the ones who determine the racial identity of people who they interact with. And that isn't always accurate."
  • Markham said more transparency and standardized data are needed to shape policy that would address police shootings.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to say that Hispanics accounted for nearly 20 percent of all people killed by police between 2011 and 2020 (not 20 percent of all people who died in police custody in that period.)

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