As policing practices are on trial in Baltimore, Chicago, Minneapolis, and other US cities, a study released today shows that the health of both black communities and police suffer under standard policing models. The new report, based on existing national research and original data from Cincinnati and Akron, Ohio , recommends specific changes in policing to build trust between police and black communities, improving public health and public safety.
The study – Stress on the Streets (SOS): Race, Policing, Health, and Increasing Trust, not Trauma – was led by Human Impact Partners of Oakland, CA., a nonprofit public health research organization, in partnership with Ohio Justice & Policy Center and Ohio Organizing Collaborative, and advised by researchers, individuals at public agencies such as Cincinnati Police Department, and grassroots groups working in health and criminal justice.
The study included a survey of 470 residents in select neighborhoods of Cincinnati and Akron, Ohio’s third- and fifth-largest cities. Among white respondents, almost 70 percent said they trust the police in their community either “somewhat” or “a lot” compared to about 40 percent of black respondents. Nearly two-thirds of black respondents said they had feared police would injure or kill them, or had those fears for someone else in an incident they witnessed. The response from white respondents was almost the exact opposite – nearly two-thirds said they’d never had those fears.
The report also shows that police experience a heightened stress and anxiety, and are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease, substance abuse, depression, and suicide than the general public. “High levels of stress and anxiety can impact health in many different ways, and this report shows significant differences by race in levels of stress and anxiety related to policing among respondents to our survey,” said Dr. Camille Jones, assistant health commissioner in the Cincinnati Health Department. “To protect the health of blacks, youth, and police officers, we must develop and implement strategies to decrease stress due to policing interactions, and to increase community resilience.”
The evidence is clear that policing alone cannot solve these problems, yet we have made police responsible for all of these societal issues – and often without the right kind of training. Having sound police practices is key to reform. Full implementation of the changes in this study – not just giving lip service to them – is essential to moving forward.