Excessive force disproportionately targets Black and Brown Americans

The American Medical Association says that the “evidence of increased police violence in the form of excessive police-initiated force and unwarranted shootings of civilians” is putting the public health of the nation, and particularly the health of Black and Brown people, at risk.

In a leadership viewpoint article, board chair Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, MD, MPH, and Patrice A. Harris, MD, MA, AMA president, wrote that the AMA policy “recognizes that physical or verbal violence between law enforcement officers and the public, particularly among Black and Brown communities where these incidents are more prevalent and pervasive, is a critical determinant of health and supports research into the public health consequences of these violent interactions.”

The statement issues a call to action for health organizations and states to “take up the mantle of intolerance for police brutality and racism.” Specifically:

  • Require states to report “legal intervention deaths and law enforcement homicides” to public health agencies.
  • Urge “clinics, hospital and healthcare providers to review and reconsider their policies and relationships with law enforcement that may increase harm to patients and patient communities.”
  • Call for CDC and National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine to jointly study public health effects of police violence.
  • Require “uniform training, transparency in reporting, and accountability by law enforcement.”

Excessive police force “significantly drives unnecessary and costly injury, and premature morbidity and death,” they wrote.

They noted that, at any time, “police violence is an injustice, but its harm is elevated amidst the remarkable stress people are facing amidst the Covid-19 pandemic… This violence not only contributes to the distrust of law enforcement by marginalized communities but distrust in the larger structure of government, including for our critically important public health infrastructure. The disparate racial impact of police violence against Black and Brown people and their communities is insidiously viral-like in its frequency, and also deeply demoralizing, irrespective of race/ethnicity, age, LGBTQ, or gender.”

Aside from the Memorial Day death of George Floyd, Ehrenfeld and Harris say there are also “signs emerging” that police have been disproportionately targeting people of color for violations of Covid-19 public health guidelines — mask-wearing and social distancing.

Racism, they wrote, is “a driver of health inequality,” as illustrated by findings from a 2018 Lancet study “showing that law enforcement-involved deaths of unarmed black individuals were associated with adverse mental health among Black American adults — a spillover effect on the population, regardless of whether the individual affected had a personal relationship with the victim or the incident was experienced vicariously. The trauma of violence in a person’s life course is associated with chronic stress, higher rates of comorbidities and lower life expectancy, all of which bear extensive care and economic burden on our healthcare system while sapping the strength of affected families and communities.”

Peggy Peck, Editor-in-Chief, BreakingMED™

Cat ID: 150

Topic ID: 88,150,254,930,926,192,927,150,151,587,590,928,925,934