According to a new study, exposure to police — even in instances in which the officers are providing assistance — may be detrimental to the health and well-being of Black youth, especially males, and can be associated with poor mental health, substance use, risky sexual behaviors, and impaired safety.
“While there has been growing attention toward the deaths of Black Americans by police, less focus is being given to the everyday, routine encounters that Black youth have with police,” said lead author Monique Jindal, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois Chicago. Examples of contact with police included the presence of police in schools, personal experiences ranging from benign stops and interactions to use of force and arrest, and witnessed encounters.
Dr. Jindal said the study revealed that “contact with police often leads to Black youth being treated as adults at ages when they should just be children, a phenomenon known as ‘adultification.’” The researchers also found that Black youth described a constant fear for their lives, hopelessness, and feelings of alienation from society at large, given the lack of support from social institutions, such as law enforcement.
By reviewing studies that looked at the relationship between police exposure and health, Dr. Jindal and her colleagues repeatedly saw impaired safety as one of the outcomes. This occurred, they learned, from direct police maltreatment, including verbal abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and dehumanization, and being made vulnerable to other violence as a result of contact with police. “What was jarring for me was recognizing the ubiquitous and pervasive nature of these encounters — with studies included in our review taking place in grade schools, predominantly White institutions, historically Black colleges, neighborhoods of varying racial compositions, streets, parks, etc.” Dr. Jindal reported.
The full study, “Police Exposures and the Health and Well-being of Black Youth in the US,” was published on the website of JAMA Pediatrics. It may be accessed here.