FBI to Track Latino Arrests for Uniform Crime Report

Huffington Post, June 25, 2013

The FBI will begin collecting nationwide data on ethnicity next year to be published in its annual Uniform Crime Report, making it possible to test the assertion of some advocacy groups that police arrest Latinos–a multiracial ethnic group–at higher rates than non-Hispanic whites. The recent move marks the revival of an earlier FBI effort to collect crime data by ethnicity, abandoned in 1987.

Currently, the FBI only tabulates arrest data by race, with categories for white, black, Asian or Pacific Islander, and American Indian or Alaska Native. Latinos, who can belong to any race provided they have Latin American heritage, effectively vanish from the agency’s published records.

The FBI’s new approach, decided on June 5 and noted in a post to its website, would bring the agency’s policy closer in line with the U.S. Census Bureau, even as that agency considers changing its classification of “Hispanic” from ethnicity to race. The FBI’s recent measure broadens the ethnicity categories from “Hispanic” to “Hispanic or Latino Origin” and from “Non-Hispanic” to “Not of Hispanic or Latino Origin.”

“Starting this year we are actively asking agencies to report ethnicity data once again,” Loretta Simons, a supervisory technical information specialist with the FBI, told The Huffington Post.

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The FBI’s new policy also adds a fifth racial category by separating Asians from Native Hawaiians or Pacific Islanders.

The change is welcome news for the American Civil Liberties Union, which hammered the FBI’s data-gathering methods this month after releasing a report that revealed a stark bias against blacks for arrests related to marijuana.

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Lynda Garcia, a fellow with the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, says excluding Latinos from national arrest statistics likely masks a similar arrest bias against Hispanics.

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Garcia suspects that failing to gather data on Hispanic arrest rates may obscure the true arrest bias against blacks, since law enforcement generally classifies Latinos as “white.” {snip}

“If, in fact, Latinos are arrested at a higher rate than whites–which we presume they might be, then the disparity against blacks would be even greater,” Garcia said.

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