Anti-Latino Hate Crimes: Finally the New DOJ Acts

New American Media has a El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, today about charges by the U.S. Department of Justice that white law enforcement officials worked with and protected the white teenagers who attacked and beat to death Luis Ramirez, apparently as part of a hate crime.

According to these charges,

Pennsylvania police officers, including the police chief of Shenandoah, Pa., abandoned their duty to uphold the law and instead aided and abetted the teenagers who brutally attacked Luis Ramirez. . . . The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) says they deliberately undermined an investigation and fair process.

That does sound like the white law enforcement agencies approach in most of the Jim Crow South until recent decades.

The editorial reminds us of the brutal details:

In 2008, Ramirez was beaten in Shenandoah by a gang of white teenagers who left him foaming at the mouth. The medical examiner ruled that his death was a homicide caused by blunt force trauma to the head. A witness said she heard the attackers spewing ethnic slurs, like “f-ing spic.”

Only two of the attackers have been tried so far, and they were acquitted by an all-white jury of the serious charges against them. According to the editorial the collusion is reported to be substantial:

The DOJ lays out the relationships between Shenandoah police officers and the defendants’ families. The police chief was friends with Piekarsky’s [one of the white defendants] mother. A patrolman … was dating her. . . . the chief … ignored advice for the department to recuse itself from the investigation. A lieutenant . .. is charged with lying to the FBI and with advising the parents of one of the attackers to get rid of the sneakers he wore during the assault on Ramirez. … The dizzying list of charges includes that the police failed to record certain statements by [the various defendants] are all charged with conspiring to falsify official police reports, with the intent of impeding and obstructing investigations into Ramirez’s murder. Ramirez’s attackers gave a false account of the beating, according to the DOJ.

Anti-Latino hate crimes are on the increase. The most recent FBI report counted some 830 Latinos in the last year as being victims of racialized crimes, a significant underestimate given that most law enforcement agencies do not make a serious effort to report such crimes to the FBI. This is up from a few years back. (For more, see chapter 8 here)

One relatively good sign of the times, it seems, is that the U.S. DOJ seems now, under President Obama, to be taking hate crimes much more seriously.