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Police Violence is a Public Health Issue

March 3, 2021

Guest post written by Amy Carroll-Scott, Samantha Rivera Joseph, and Danny Galpern

A new data brief was created to address the recent calls for racial justice and reforming law enforcement systems, “Police Violence is a Public Health Issue.” Members of the Community Violence Working Group, funded by the Urban Health Collaborative (UHC), created this brief to share available data on police-inflicted violence in Philadelphia. We drew data from multiple local and national publicly available data sources to better understand the individuals and communities most affected by non-fatal and fatal use of force by police. What we found is that the vast majority of victims are Black. Moreover, these instances predominantly occur in predominantly Black or Latino neighborhoods.

While these data are from 2015-2020, we know 2020 was the second highest year for incidents of gun violence in recent Philadelphia history. Gun violence is a devastating public health issue which directly harms individuals and communities, in both immediate and longer-term ways. Police violence can cause injury, psychological trauma, and most severely death. The context of police violence also negatively affects the mental and physical health of Black families and communities who are co-victims in these traumatic incidences.

The working group presented these powerful data to a city-wide coalition of city and community leaders who lead violence prevention efforts in Philadelphia and comprise the Community Violence Working Group. These stakeholders provided feedback on design and content and informed working group dissemination efforts.

This brief was created to provide context and data for advocacy efforts to address racial profiling, police brutality, and de-escalation practices and policies within the Philadelphia Police Department. While these data confirm other studies of violence by police disproportionately impacting and harming Black communities, local data is helpful for framing the problem in order to design solutions and monitor their effects. The working group hopes to put these data into the hands of those working to address systemic racism and fight for equity within the law enforcement system.

View “Police Violence is a Public Health Issue,” data brief.