Memphis Police officers horribly beat 29-year-old Tyre Nichols during a traffic stop in Memphis, Tennessee in early January. He died three days later of his injuries.
The brutal beating was captured on video and once again police violence has sparked national outrage. In this case, the perpetrators were Black police officers.
In 2022, police killed at least 1,192 people, the highest number ever recorded, according to the Mapping Police Violence database.
Rightfully, the Memphis officers have been fired and charged with murder. In the chilling tape of the police beating of Nichols, he is heard crying out for his mother. Attorney Antonio Romanucci described Nichols as a “human piñata for these police officers.”
His dying pleas echo those of George Floyd killed by police in Minneapolis in 2020.
It is not enough to condemn the killings anymore. We need systemic change and an overhaul of policing in America.
People of color, who make up around 40% of the U.S. population, comprise more than 60% of all people killed by or who died in the custody of the police. By comparison, whites, who constitute more than 60% of the population, comprise less than 40% of all deaths over the 2014-2021 period, according to The Raza Database Project
Blacks were killed by police at 7.26 per million, Native Americans at 7.24 per million, Latinos at 3.26 per million and whites at 2.64 per million, according to the Mapping Violence database. 98.1 % of killings by police from 2013-2022 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime, also according to that database.
Since 2015, almost 1,300 Latinos have been fatally shot by police, according to a Washington Post database that tracks police shootings.
The Raza Database Project, created by professor and journalist, Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, has tracked more than 2,000 Latinos killed from 2014 to 2021 by police or while in police custody. Some people were killed due to physical restraint, tasering, in or by a vehicle, and a suspiciously high number of people who purportedly experienced a “medical emergency” while in custody, the research found.
Rodriguez told CALÓ NEWS that the majority of people killed by police in Southern California are Latinos.
“Sometimes the low attention brought to Latino killings leads to frustration, which is valid too, but there’s no question, there’s no denial. I don’t know the exact answer why, other than we are people that are dehumanized. One reason is we’re seen as foreigners and then we live in a society that has a black-white orientation,” Rodriguez said.
Latinos are undercounted in many of the databases because one cannot always determine race or ethnicity by a surname or also because Latinos can be of any race, researchers found. Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous, and Asian and Pacific Islander people are not counted in a uniform way.
Race/ethnicity typically is first observed and recorded by law enforcement and in the absence of standardized definitions, many Latinos and other people of color appear to be counted in “White” or “Other” categories, researchers found. Discerning race/ethnicity often requires additional research, including reviewing news media, social media, or direct reports by victims’ families.
The condemnations from President Biden to the Memphis police chief are not enough. There was debate over the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (JPA) that would strip law enforcement officers of qualified immunity, create a national registry of police misconduct complaints, and make it easier for federal prosecutors to charge police officers with civil rights violations.
But it also proposed additional hundreds of millions in funding for police. The bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives but stalled in the U.S. Senate. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) plans to reintroduce the act after the State of the Union address on Feb. 7.
The answers are not so simple as funding or defunding the police. We need a systemic change so that police, no matter their color, stop killing people of color at higher rates than whites.