Exposure to Police Violence Reported Often, Associated With Mental Health Issues

Bottom Line: Exposure to police violence is increasingly recognized as a public health issue in the United States. In this survey study of 1,000 adults in Baltimore, Maryland, and New York, New York, exposure to police violence was reported by many residents, especially those who were racial/ethnic and sexual minorities. The frequency of exposure to police violence over 12 months ranged from 3 percent for sexual violence (i.e. inappropriate sexual contact including during a body search) to 7.5 percent for physical violence without a weapon (i.e. hit, punched, dragged) and 4.6 percent for physical violence with a weapon (i.e. use of gun, baton, taser) to 13 percent for psychological violence (i.e. threats, intimidation, being stopped without cause) and nearly 15 percent for neglectful policing (i.e. police were called for help but never responded or responded too late or inappropriately). These exposures were associated with a greater likelihood of mental health issues, including psychological distress, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and psychotic experiences. The authors note causal inferences cannot be drawn from the findings and more research is needed to understand the effect over time of exposure to violence by police.

Authors:  Jordan E. DeVylder, Ph.D., Fordham University, New York, and coauthors


To Learn More: The full study is available on the For The Media website.