Investing in Latino communities across the country will help address police violence against members of the community, according to Congressman JesÃºs â€˜Chuy' Garcia.
According to a new report by the Raza Database Project and UnidosUS - the largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States - indicated that more than 2,600 Latinos were killed in police custody between 2014 and May 9.
The report also found that Latinos make up approximately 17% of the total number of 32,542 people killed while in police custody since 2000, compared to 20% for African-Americans.
Speaking at an event organized by UnidosUS, Garcia said that he believes a lack of government investment in Latino communities and other communities of color is a principle reason that incidents of police violence take place.
"Disinvestment from our communities is the root cause of the cycles of poverty, violence and hopelessness," he said. "There's always been money for police, but not for housing or social services. We have to reverse that cycle."
Garcia's congressional district - which covers a number of heavily Latino areas in Chicago - was the scene of a March incident in which police shot and killed Adam Toledo, a 13-year-old Mexican-American.
"Too often, the police play by different rules in our community," he said. "We're in a challenging situation. Building those bridges and creating that trust is very challenging."
"The system is under tremendous strain and it needs to be re-invented to build trust and accountability, and address the underlying causes of much of the violence, including the police violence we see in communities all over the country," Garcia added.
Overall, ethnic minorities - who make up 40% of the US population - make up more than 60% of all people who die in police custody. White Americans, on the other hand, constitute 60% of the population and account for 40% of all police custody deaths.
"The numbers we already knew about are unacceptable. These new numbers are unconscionable," said UnidosUS President and CEO Janet MurguÃa. "This data demands immediate consideration by those in Congress who are working on much-needed law enforcement reform legislation to ensure that their solutions truly reflect the scope of the problem."
The system is under tremendous strain and it needs to be re-invented to build trust and accountability, and address the underlying causes of much of the violence, including the police violence we see in communities all over the country
In a statement, UnidosUS and the Raza Database Project said that the statistics starkly highlight the fact that the "is no fully accurate and transparent national database" of those killed by police or who died in custody.
A similar database from the Washington Post, for example, recorded 6,303 fatal police shootings since 2015, compared to 13,216 recorded by the Raza Database Project.
The database also found that the number of Latinos is likely much higher than previously believed. By adjusting for known ethnic surnames, researchers found that the number of Latinos killed while in police custody rose 24%, from 2,139 to 2,653 between 2014 and 2021.
"UnidosUS believes that effective policies to address law enforcement abuse rest on accurate statistics," added MurguÃa.
"The efforts of groups like the Raza Database Project are evidence that we need a comprehensive, transparent federal database of those who died in police custody that includes not only cause of death, but also race and ethnicity," MurguÃa said.
In an interview with LPO, Robert Cintli Rodriguez, the project's director, said that he believes that the media and much of the American public continues to see the issue of police killings primarily "in black and white terms."
"Because of that, it's almost as if this population [Latinos] has disappeared pretty much, or are invisible," he said. "It's always been there. It's just under the radar."
Unlike previous databases, the Raza Database Project's numbers also show those who died in incidents other than shooting, such as 6,200 from a vehicle, 576 from an unidentified "medical emergency", 325 from physical restraints and 194 from beatings.
Rodriguez added that accidents are a common cause of death in cases which involve immigrants.
"I don't know anyone who would discount the fac that these would be considered deaths at the hands of law enforcement. It's a pattern where they chase people, and cars are overturned and crash," he said.
"In cases like that, it's always seen as if it wasn't an accident. It's Border Patrol chasing," Rodriguez added. It's inevitable it's going to happen."
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