Two national surveys indicate that Latinos are more likely than whites to be subject to the use of force by police officers (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011 [pdf]; Weitzer & Tuch, 2004). Police used force against 1.6 percent of Latinos they came into contact with in 2008, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. In comparison, 1.2 percent of whites and 3.4 percent of blacks had force used against them by police. In the second survey, 9 percent of Latinos and blacks stated that police had used excessive force against them in their city (see Figure 1); 3 percent of whites said the same.
One theory about fluctuations in police misconduct is that higher levels of misconduct are associated with changes in the ethnic makeup of local populations. A study of New York City from 1975 to 1996 found that reports of police misconduct were associated with increases in the Latino population (Kane, 2002), and a study of cities nationwide found that in the Southwest from 1985 to 1990, civil rights complaints against police rose with the percentage of people in a city who were Latino (Smith & Holmes, 2003). Immigrant communities, and particularly Latino immigrant communities, also were among the most heavily policed in New York City from 2004 to 2008, with higher numbers of arrests and stops per crime than in black and white immigrant communities or in non-immigrant communities (Davies & Fagan, 2012).
An analysis of police killings of civilians in Los Angeles County from 2000 to 2014 found that 168 Latinos were killed over that period—53.5 percent of the total, while Latinos made up 48.3 percent of the population (Youth Justice Coalition, 2014 [pdf]).
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