Policing Is a Public Health Issue

A police car in a city.

Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee

 

We join the voices of others across the nation in protesting the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26 year old Black woman, who was shot by Louisville, KY police serving a no-knock warrant in her home on March 13, 2020. On September 23, a Kentucky grand jury indicted Detective Brett Hankison for wanton endangerment during the raid, citing his actions as demonstrating “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.” No charges were announced against the other two officers, Jonathan Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove, who also fired shots. This means that while one officer was charged for shooting a wall, no one was charged for the 6 bullets that struck Ms. Taylor. 

This tragic killing underscores the imminent danger to life posed by no-knock warrants that allow police to forcibly enter homes to search them without warning and react with violent force to those defending their own homes. No-knock warrants of the sort used by Louisville police make null and void law enforcement accountability for physical harm resulting from these actions. Many other US municipalities have similar, unjust laws often grounded in the war on drugs. As a result, there are often no legal consequences for harm caused by these police actions, despite substantial evidence of their deadly consequences. 

Louisville city council has since voted to ban no-knock warrants (naming it Breonna’s Law) and has made body-worn cameras for police mandatory. The city also settled with Taylor’s family for $12 million for wrongful death. However, several elements of this case, as well as the police account of the incident, remain in dispute. Breonna Taylor’s killing remains under investigation by the FBI and Louisville police.

Communities most adversely affected by police violence have spoken out since the inception of this country about the harms of police violence to their health as well as that of their families and communities. Protests in cities throughout the United States have demanded justice for Breonna Taylor and many others killed by police, including Cynthia Scott, Amadou Diallo, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, George Floyd and thousands of others. More recently, the 25,000 member American Public Health Association recognized policing as a public health issue that contributes to pervasive and persistent health inequities in the United States. 

As members of the public health community, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves about police violence and its disproportionate impacts for Black, Latinx, Native American, and other communities of color. To learn more about police violence as a public health issue:  

It is also our responsibility to take action to protect the health and safety of disproportionately affected communities. Specific actions that can be taken by members of the public health community include:

The struggle to create a society in which Black, Latinx, and Native American lives unequivocally matter has been—and will continue to be—a challenging one. We encourage you to connect with your support networks and with social movements working for change.

Realization of our fundamental goal of health equity requires all of us, as members of the public health community, to uphold and model the values that underlie a truly equitable society. 

About the Authors

Linda Chatters is a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Rackham Faculty Ally for Diversity, and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Amy Schulz is a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education, Rackham Faculty Ally for Diversity, and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Paul Fleming is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

William D. Lopez is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.

Barbara A. Israel is a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

K Rivet Amico is an associate professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Carissa Schmidt is a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Enrique Neblett is a professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Cleopatra Caldwell is chair and professor of Health Behavior and Health Education.

Jenny Crawford is the Health Behavior and Health Education Assistant to the Chair and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Max Geisendorfer is an app programmer/analyst in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Gabriela Chen is a master's student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Kiana Bess is a PhD student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and Rackham Student Ally for Diversity.

Sheeba Pawar is a master's student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Emma Schmidt is a master's student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and member of the Health Behavior and Health Education Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.

Dominique Sylvers is a PhD student in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education and Rackham Student Ally for Diversity.

Riana Anderson is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Behavior and Health Education.


Recent Posts

  • Do Africans Want Genetically Modified Mosquitoes?
  • Watch What You Eat: How Talk of Weight and Healthy Eating Can Be Harmful during COVID-19
  • Screening for Social Determinants of Health in Pediatric Settings
  • Public Health Concerns for Caregivers of Children with ASD
  • Mental Health Inside Detention Centers: The Unknown Toll on Latinx Child Immigrants
  • Go See the Doc: The Battle to Take Back Primary Care