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Between 1980 to 2019, police violence caused 30,800 deaths, according to a new report published in The Lancet.
Latinos experienced the second-highest rate of police violence-driven fatalities, after Blacks. The report also found that police-violence-related deaths among people of color far outweighed the number of cases reported in the U.S. National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), which tracks fatality data.
“Mounting evidence shows that deaths at the hands of the police disproportionately impact people of certain races and ethnicities, pointing to systemic racism in policing,” according to the data.
“Proven public health intervention strategies are needed to address these systematic biases.”
The Report and Its Findings on Police Violence
In 2019, the US incurred 13% of global deaths due to police violence despite making up only 4% of the global population.
“[Police violence against Latinos is] a crisis, in the same manner as it’s a crisis in the Black community … Chances are, if anybody is going to be getting killed, they’re going to be Black or Brown,” said Roberto Rodriguez, an associate professor at the University of Arizona who researches police brutality, told The Washington Post.
The Lancet report analyzed data using the National Vital Statistics System (NVSS), as well as three non-governmental, open-source databases on police violence:
- Fatal Encounters
- Mapping Police Violence
- The Counted
“Together, this study represents one of the most comprehensive analyses of deaths due to police violence in the U.S. The authors reported disproportionate rates of mortality by race and ethnicity that varied considerably at the state level,” the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, one of the study’s supporters, writes. “These results reflect the need for evidence-based strategies to address systemic racism and discrimination in policing in the U.S.”
Moreover, the issue of unreported deaths also played a large role in the report’s findings.
Of the 30,800 estimated deaths reported in the study, only 16,600-17,600 deaths were reported in the NVSS. The investigators estimated that the NVSS under-reported 55.5% of deaths due to police violence in the U.S.
The proportion of under-reported deaths among races includes:
- 5% of Black cases were misclassified
- 1% of white cases were misclassified
- 0% of Latino cases were misclassified
- 6% of persons of other races were misclassified
The number of Latinos killed by police is “off the charts,” Rodriguez said.
“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 said.
Policing and Latinos
Despite hiring more people of color in the past 30 years, the majority of police departments are still predominately white and do not proportionately represent people of color.
“The share of minority officers nationally has nearly doubled in three decades, growing from 14.6 to 27.3 percent since 1987, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics. But that still doesn’t equal the share of minorities in the U.S., at 37.2 percent,” according to PEW Research.
Latinos are more likely than whites to face police discrimination while driving.
Police are also more likely to stop and search Latinos than white people, even though white people are more likely to possess illegal material, according to data from Texas and California, two states with large Latino populations.
A report from the Los Angeles Times found that across Los Angeles, 24% of black drivers and passengers were searched, compared with 16% of Latinos and 5% of whites, during a recent 10-month period.
“That means a black person in a vehicle was more than four times as likely to be searched by police as a white person, and a Latino was three times as likely. Yet whites were found with drugs, weapons or other contraband in 20% of searches, compared with 17% for blacks and 16% for Latinos,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
A Texas study examined data from millions of stops made by police in Texas in 2020 from the Institute for Predictive Analytics in Criminal Justice.
The Institute for Predictive Analytics in Criminal Justice found the following key findings:
- Latinos accounted for the largest percentage of individuals who were searched (38.8%)
- Latinos accounted for the largest percentage (37.1%) of individuals who were arrested due to contraband.
- Latinos and Black people were more likely to be arrested than white people if contraband was
“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 said. “But the number of Latinos killed by police is “off the charts.”
What Can We Do to Improve the Police-Community Relationship?
A typical dynamic is minorities don’t trust police, and police don’t trust minorities.
Equal Justice USA, a Salud America! Salud Hero, started a new program based on trauma training to rebuild police-community trust and relationships in Newark, N.J.
The program brings together police officers, community leaders, healthcare providers, and violence interrupters for honest conversations about trauma and violence.
“In my [Newark police] officers, I see a desire to recognize the trauma in the community and to use that understanding to work together to reduce violence and help the victims. They really believe now that as a city we can get away from the ‘US vs THEM’ mentality. The community has been saying this for years. We, as a department, weren’t listening. We thought we knew it all – and that good policing was arresting the bad guys and being the warriors. Now we are listening. Now we understand that we are guardians of the community and we need to understand the root of the problem and be part of the solution,” said Newark Police Lt. Louis Forst.
Increasing diversity in police departments is another important step to foster good relationships with communities of color and potentially reduce violence.
The Justice Department recommends police departments take these steps to increase diversity:
- Reconsider physical and written tests that may impact female and non-white applicants.
- Allow applicants with prior arrests to apply for exemptions.
- Engage stakeholders to help create diversity reflective of the community.
- Use proactive and targeted community outreach efforts.
- Build partnerships with educational institutions and create internship programs.
Another path to better police-community relations is recognizing implicit bias.
Implicit biases are stereotypes that affect our actions and decisions about others, beyond our conscious control. This can lead to discrimination. Fortunately, these biases also can be “rewired” toward more compassion for others.
Learning about our implicit biases is important to ensure we treat others equally and aren’t causing harm to others with preconceived notions.
Download the free Salud America! Action Pack “Find Out If You Have Implicit Bias and What to Do Next.”
This Action Pack will help you see if you have implicit bias, learn from others who have overcome their own implicit bias, and also encourage others to learn about implicit bias, too.