Impact of Police Violence on Public Health

The American Public Health Association,

Recognizing that most law enforcement officials perform their duties in a professional manner, but that police brutality and excessive use of force,1-5 are widely reported and have disproportionate impact on people of color; 1,4,5 and

Knowing the significant morbidity and mortality associated with many of these events;1 and

Further noting recent federal legislation to add 100,000 more police to the current force, thus potentially increasing the incidence of injury producing events; and

Recognizing the lack of systematically collected public health data documenting episodes of police brutality,5 even though Section 21042 of the Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 requires the Attorney General to "acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers" and to "publish an annual summary" of these data;5,6 and

Noting the chilling effect of police violence on the inevitable and appropriate protest by victims of recent reductions or eliminations of social programs; and

Knowing the erratic enforcement of existing guidelines and standards in the control of police brutality;1 and

Recognizing that public disclosure and independent community review may help expose and reduce the harmful effects of police brutality and excessive use of force;4,7 and

Further noting the key role played by primary care and emergency health personnel in reporting incidents of police brutality resulting in adverse health consequences; therefore

  1. Urges that local, state and federal statistics on the incidence and health consequences of police violence be collected and monitored by public health personnel;
  2. Urges that Congress fund the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research and surveillance on the health consequences and prevention of police violence, particularly exploring the disproportionate burden of morbidity and mortality among people of color and immigrant populations;
  3. Urges that all localities establish independent community-based review boards to consider all complaints of police brutality and excessive use of force;4,7
  4. Encourages health and mental health personnel and organizations to report episodes of police abuse of force and violence to criminal justice authorities and independent community-based review boards, and that legal statutes provide protection against recrimination for such reports;
  5. Urges the training of health and mental health personnel in the identification of victims of police brutality and in appropriate means of reporting such events;
  6. Urges jurisdictions to strictly enforce police guidelines and international human rights standards, with strong disciplinary measures, and, where appropriate, criminal prosecutions, for the abusive use of force and firearms;
  7. Urges jurisdictions to investigate and when appropriate to prosecute incidents of police brutality as hate crimes;
  8. Urges that all investigations of police brutality and excessive use of force have full public disclosure after their conclusion, unless criminal proceedings would be jeopardized; and
  9. Urges jurisdictions to provide anti-racism training in continuing education of all law enforcement personnel, to include the promotion of racial harmony, cultural diversity, and non-violent and non-abusive approaches to their duties.


  1. Amnesty International. Police Brutality and Excessive Force in the New York City Police Department. 1996.
  2. Lersch KM, Feagin JR. Violent Police-Citizen Encounters: An analysis of major newspaper accounts. Critical Sociology. 1996; 22:29-49.
  3. Geller WA, Toch H, eds. And Justice for All: Understanding and Controlling Police Abuse of Force. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum, 1995.
  4. McEwen T. National Data Collection on Police Use of Force. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, 1996.
  5. American Civil Liberties Union. Fighting Police Abuse: A community action manual. 1997.

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