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NMSU researchers find law enforcement killings of Hispanic people spiked over past decade


LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- New Mexico State University researchers have released a study revealing a significant spike in the number of Hispanic individuals killed by law enforcement officers in the United States over the past decade. The study, published in the Journal of Community Health, shows an increase exceeding 40% between 2010 and 2020, contrasting with an 18% growth of the Hispanic population within the same timeframe.

Professor Jagdish Khubchandani, a member of NMSU's public health department, collaborated with James H. Price from the University of Toledo to conduct the research. The team utilized a decade's worth of mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to analyze the trends and circumstances of Hispanic deaths in police encounters.

The study reveals a total of 1,158 Hispanic individuals were killed in encounters with law enforcement officers within the decade, with males representing a staggering 96.2% of those cases. Other key findings include 89.9% of deaths involving a firearm, 66.9% of victims being between 20 and 39 years old, and 66.9% of victims coming from the western U.S.

Moreover, the death rate for Hispanics in law enforcement encounters was found to be 1.33 times higher than that of non-Hispanic whites. The loss of life equates to a potential loss of over 50,000 years of life, with the majority of this loss impacting males between 20 and 39 years old.

Professor Khubchandani stressed the need for societal cooperation with law enforcement agencies to curb these preventable deaths. Among the states with the highest number of Hispanic deaths, New Mexico ranked in the top three alongside Texas and California. With regards to death rates per 100,000 people, New Mexico also topped the list.

Despite the state's relatively smaller population, Khubchandani noted, "New Mexico had 1.02 deaths, while Colorado had 0.49 deaths and Nevada had 0.31 deaths." These findings indicate a disproportionate impact on the Hispanic population in the border and Mountain West regions.

The research builds on previous work by Khubchandani in 2021, which studied fatal police violence over a period of 40 years. The study revealed over 5,000 Hispanic individuals were killed by law enforcement officers between 1980 and 2019, with half of these deaths being misclassified. Khubchandani further emphasized the need for accurate data and comprehensive understanding of these fatal encounters to effectively address the issue.

The study suggests a range of interventions to reduce law enforcement-related deaths, including hiring more educated, female, and full-time officers, reconsidering over-policing in communities of color, deploying non-police responders for mental health emergencies, increasing citizen involvement in officer disciplinary boards, and advocating for less-lethal measures in encounters. The researchers urge policymakers and public health professionals to work together to create and implement strategies to mitigate the escalating deaths within the Hispanic community due to police encounters.

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