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You don’t hear much about Latino victims of police violence. That could change soon.

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  1. Civil rights groups and immigrants rights groups are working together to expand the renewed national focus on police violence against unarmed African Americans to include killings of Latinos — especially immigrants.
  2. "Just as people have stood up around the nation to demand accountability for the deaths of Trayvon MartinMichael BrownEric GarnerTony Robinson and Walter Scott — we too now stand to call for systemic change to protect the rights and safety of our first- and second-generation immigrant brothers and sisters," a coalition of organizations led by the Advancement Project wrote in a Wednesday press release.
  3. The activists listed 17-year-old Jessica Hernandez of Denver, Colorado, Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, of Pasco, Washington, and 31-year-old Ruben García Villalpando of Grapevine, Texas, as examples of unarmed Hispanic Americans who have been killed by police in recent months.

But there's no reliable data on Latino victims of police violence

Reporting on the videotaped police shooting of Zambrano-Montes — one of the men mentioned in the civil rights group's statement — Vox's German Lopez explained why data on Latino and Hispanic victims of police shootings is especially limited, and why some experts believe they may be undercounted.

  • First, according to Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, some parts of the criminal justice system sometimes classify Hispanic people as white, likely overestimating the number of non-Hispanic white people shot and killed by police and underestimating Hispanic victims.
  • Second, in many cases, determinations of race and ethnicity are made by low-level officials, potentially leading to even more errors based on perceptions and prejudices regarding race. In other words, a Hispanic or Latino person could be identified as white or black.
  • Third, Florida, the state with the third-largest Hispanic population, is entirely excluded from the FBI's national tally of police shootings. This means it's indisputable that significant data is missing.

"In short," Walker wrote in an email to Lopez, "we have no reliable data on Hispanic/Latino people shot and killed by the police."

The absence of statistics doesn't mean it's impossible to rally around this issue — to be sure, there are plenty of anecdotes and examples — but it does mean the specific issues faced by Latinos are harder to quantify.

However, this may be a non-issue, as the list of demands provided by the organizations in their statement (the demilitarization of police, increased accountability and racial bias training for officers, and the appointment of special prosecutors in cases involving allegations of police abuse) offers broad solutions to decrease these sorts of killings across all racial and ethnic groups.