["The passage of this statement and the recognition of policing as
violence is a huge victory against racism and classism in this
professional field. Our goal is for this work to be used to further
organizing, research, and education..."] [https://portside.org/]
A NATIONAL ABOLITIONIST VICTORY FOR PUBLIC HEALTH!
November 16, 2018
Critical Resistance [https://www.endingpoliceviolence.com]
_ "The passage of this statement and the recognition of policing as
violence is a huge victory against racism and classism in this
professional field. Our goal is for this work to be used to further
organizing, research, and education..." _
November 13, 2018, Critical Resistance (CR) was proud to be amongst
health workers and anti-policing organizers as we achieved a huge
victory at the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual
conference. Voting representatives of the APHA, a body of over
25,000 public health professionals, overwhelmingly adopted a policy
statement that identifies the violence of policing as a public health
issue, and consequently advocates for decriminalization measures,
divestment from law enforcement, and alternatives to policing.
Critical Resistance (CR) is ecstatic over Tuesday’s news, having
worked with authors since 2015 to maintain its abolitionist politics
against critique and build national support for its passage.
A group of dedicated public health educators, researchers, and medical
worked for three years on this “Law Enforcement is a Public Health
Issue” policy statement and organized with fierce dedication to
secure the victory this week. Jade Rivera, one of the co-authors,
noted "The passage of this statement and the recognition of policing
as violence is a huge victory against racism and classism in this
professional field. Our goal is for this work to be used to further
organizing, research, and education in the field of public health and
beyond." Authors of the statement work among and come from working
class communities of color who are overwhelmingly targeted by the
violence of policing. They were prompted to take action in their field
to push public health agencies and workers to apply a comprehensive,
holistic approach to prevent and proactively address the trauma,
repression, and disruption of communities caused by policing agencies.
Policing reinforces the economic abandonment of poor and working class
communities of color, exacerbating such problems as environmental
injustice, lack of access to food, unemployment, housing displacement,
and decreased access to health care. While these problems are commonly
viewed as public health issues, rarely do leaders in the field of
public health take a position on how policing is a non-neutral state
project that augments these systemic harms. Until now.
PUBLIC HEALTH AS A GOAL AND A STRATEGY
The policy statement identifies that the violence of policing is
systemic in our society, and “results in deaths, injuries, trauma,
and stress which disproportionately affect marginalized populations
(e.g. people of color, immigrants, individuals experiencing
houselessness, people with disabilities, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual
Trans and Queer (LGBTQ) community, individuals with mental illness,
people who use drugs, and sex workers.” We encourage organizers to
use this policy as an organizing tool in your campaigns and leverage
it to demand the abolitionist changes we seek. The policy statement
cautions against ineffective police reforms and urges decision makers
on all levels of government to shift resources away from policing.
Abolition is an affirmative project, after all, and “Law Enforcement
is a Public Health Issue”
strongly advocates for community-based and centered alternatives,
resources, and solutions.
Recognizing the system of policing as a threat to our communities’
health and well-being has deep roots in our movement. For instance,
the Black Panther Party, known for public health interventions such as
free breakfast programs and community clinics, identified police
brutality as “America’s greatest health problem.” CR’s
campaigns and coalitions working to fight policing and imprisonment
continue to identify the ways in which the violence inherent to these
systems erodes community health. We found this statement useful in our
campaigns such as Stop Urban Shield, where we needed to urge
decision-makers to eliminate militarized emergency preparedness
trainings and center life-affirming strategies. Our work is opposing
the use of police as mental health responders in Portland
fighting jail expansion on land prone to Valley Fever
in Los Angeles, equipping Oaklanders to respond to emergencies without
engaging the police
and rejecting the New York Mayor’s notion
that community based jails will foster greater well-being. QUOTE FROM
PHAL COMING BY 5pm.
In officially passing this statement within one of the leading health
associations of the county, public health workers build on a legacy of
resistance making connections between the violence of policing and
community health. Liz Kroboth and Emma Rubin, also two co-authors of
the statement, stated that “Our work is not over. We look forward to
continuing the work with APHA to push for public health alternatives
to policing in order to reduce harm to marginalized people by agents
of the state.”
Critical Resistance hopes that anti-policing organizers and health
advocates alike will use this win as a tool to leverage their
Share the statement and the website here:
Follow @EndPolViolence on Twitter.
Addressing Law Enforcement Violence as a Public Health Issue
The 2018 Statement
_This version of the statement was formally adopted by the American
Public Health Association (APHA) at their annual conference in San
Diego, CA on November 13, 2018 with majority support from Governing
Council members (87% to 13%). The statement was written by the End
Police Violence Collective--a growing group of public health
researchers, teachers, graduate students, non-profit leaders, and
community organizers--and is rooted in the work of grassroots
organizing against state-mediated violence. _
_Read our reflection on the statement’s passage and a thank you
message to our supporters by clicking here_
Black Caucus of Health Workers; Medical Care Section; International
Health; Student Assembly; Socialist Caucus, Sexual and Reproductive
IV. Collaborating Units
This statement was reviewed by all sponsoring and endorsing units
Organizations within APHA Endorsing:
Community Health Planning and Policy Development Section; LGBT Caucus;
Human Rights Forum; American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian
Caucus; Family Violence Prevention Caucus; Mental Health Section;
Public Health Nursing Section, Maternal and Child Health Section,
Community-Based Public Health Caucus; Latino Caucus, Physical Activity
Section, Immigrant and Refugee Health Section, Peace Caucus,
Occupational Health Section; Environment Section
Organizations Outside of APHA Endorsing:
Drug Policy Alliance; Public Health Justice Collective; HOMEY SF;
Freedom Archives; On Earth Peace, Jewish Voices for Peace-Bay Area,
California Coalition for Women Prisoners, Out Now, Stop Urban Shield
Coalition, Anti-Police Terror Project; Critical Resistance Oakland,
Public Health Justice Collective; Human Impacts Partners;
Psychologists for Social Responsibility; CURYJ (Communities United for
Restorative Youth Justice); CAYCJ (California Alliance for Youth and
Community Justice); Planting Justice; The People’s Table; Equity And
Transformation; Men and Women in Prison Ministries; Gray Panthers of
San Francisco; Coalition on Homelessness; Do No Harm; Racial Justice
Action Center; End Solitary Santa Cruz County, CA; Californians United
for a Responsible Budget (CURB); Penal Abolition Collective at the
American Society of Criminology; The Sunnyside Longevity Project
KEYWORDS: VIOLENCE, GUN VIOLENCE, MINORITIES, INJURY PREVENTION,
RACISM, LAW ENFORCEMENT, PUBLIC SAFETY
_**NOTE: LANGUAGE THAT IS BOTH BOLD AND ITALICIZED HAS BEEN EXPLICITLY
DEFINED IN APPENDIX A**_
Physical and psychological violence that is structurally-mediated by
the system of law enforcement results in deaths, injuries, trauma, and
stress which disproportionately affect marginalized populations (e.g.,
people of color, immigrants, individuals experiencing houselessness,
people with disabilities, the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Trans and Queer
(LGBTQ) community, individuals with mental illness, people who use
drugs, and sex workers). Among other factors, the misuse of policies
intended to protect law enforcement agencies have enabled limited
accountability for these harms. Further, certain regulations (e.g.,
anti-immigrant legislation, policies associated with the _WAR ON
DRUGS_, and the criminalization of _SEX WORK _and activities
associated with houselessness) have promoted and intensified violence
by law enforcement toward marginalized populations. While
interventions for improving policing quality to reduce violence (e.g.,
community-oriented policing, training, body/dashboard-mounted cameras,
and conducted electrical weapons) have been implemented, empirical
evidence suggests notable limitations. Importantly, these approaches
also lack an upstream, primary prevention public health frame. A
public health strategy that centers community safety and prevents law
enforcement violence should favor community-built and community-based
solutions. The American Public Health Association (APHA) recommends
the following actions by federal, state, tribal, and local
authorities: (1) eliminate policies and practices that facilitate
disproportionate violence against specific populations (including laws
criminalizing these populations); (2) institute robust law enforcement
accountability measures; (3) increase investment in promoting racial
and economic equity to address social determinants of health; (4)
implement community-based alternatives to addressing harms and
preventing trauma; and (5) work with public health officials to
comprehensively document law enforcement contact, violence, and
VII. Relationship to Existing APHA Policy Statements
The following APHA policy statements are relevant to the current
-APHA Policy Statement 7120: Substance Abuse as a Public Health
-APHA Policy Statement 8817(PP): A Public Health Response to the War
on Drugs: Reducing Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drug Problems among the
-APHA Policy Statement 9123: Social Practice of Mass Imprisonment
-APHA Policy Statement 9926: Support for Research on the Socioeconomic
Causes of Violence
-APHA Policy Statement 9929: Diversion from Jail for Non-Violent
Arrestees with Serious Mental Illness
-APHA Policy Statement 20128: Opposing the DHS-ICE Secure Communities
-APHA Policy Statement 200914: Building Public Health Infrastructure
for Youth Violence Prevention
-APHA Policy Statement 201311: Public Health Support for People
Reentering Communities from Prisons and Jails
-APHA Policy Statement 201312: Defining and Implementing a Public
Health Response to Drug Use and Misuse
VIII. Rationale for Consideration
This document establishes a policy statement focused on
structurally-mediated law enforcement violence as a public health
issue with public health and system-based strategies to reduce law
enforcement violence and increases public safety for marginalized
communities. This is necessary due to the archival of APHA Policy
Statement 9815 Impact of Police Violence on Public Health and APHA
Policy Statement LB-16-02 Law Enforcement Violence as a Public Health
IX. Problem Statement
Prevalence, impacts, and inequities
Law enforcement violence is a critical public health issue. Consistent
with domains of violence defined by the World Health Organization
(WHO), law enforcement violence has been conceptualized to include
physical, psychological, and sexual violence as well as neglect (i.e.,
failure to aid) [1-3]. While all forms of violence are important to
consider and have been shown to correlate with poor mental health
outcomes in at least one study , this statement focuses on physical
and psychological violence.
According to _THE COUNTED__ _(a UK-based website, which operated from
2015 to 2016 and provided the most timely, comprehensive source of
U.S. data at the time) [4-6], at least 1,091 individuals were killed
by law enforcement officers in the United States in 2016 . These
deaths in 2016 amounted to 54,754 years of life lost . Based on
data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, there were 76,440
non-fatal injuries due to legal intervention in 2016 . At least 28
serious injuries were inflicted on students between 2010 and 2015 by
school-based law enforcement officers . The CDC estimates that the
overall cost of fatal and non-fatal injuries by law enforcement
reported in 2010, including medical costs and work lost, was $1.8
billion . Legal scholars describe a clear connection between
increased exposure to stops and an elevated risk of death or physical
harm by law enforcement officers .
Inappropriate stops by law enforcement are one form of psychological
violence with serious implications for public health [1, 2]. Even in
the absence of physical violence, several studies have found that
stops perceived as unfair, discriminatory, or intrusive are associated
with adverse mental health outcomes, including symptoms of anxiety,
depression and posttraumatic stress disorder [1, 13, 14].
Additionally, one study found neighborhood-level frisk and use of
force was linked with elevated levels of psychological distress among
men who live in these neighborhoods . In two large surveys, Black
individuals were more likely than white individuals to report stress
as a result of encounters with police [13, 14] – a concern given
evidence of an association between stress due to perceived racial
discrimination and risk factors for chronic disease and early
mortality . A nationally representative study found an association
between death of Black individuals due to legal intervention with
subsequent poor mental health among Black adults living in the same
The impacts of physical violence likewise extend beyond injuries and
death, affecting individuals’ and communities’ ability to achieve
positive health outcomes in the short- and long-term, and compounding
extant health inequities. For example, one study found residents of
neighborhoods with high rates of law enforcement use of force were at
increased risk for diabetes and obesity . Among youth, exposure to
violence from school-based law enforcement officers is linked to
"denial of educational and social growth" – both key
determinants of health  – and ethnographic research indicates
that current policing practices alter key developmental processes
among Black male adolescents . In summary, aggressive policing
is “a threat to physical and mental health,” which may be
exacerbated among marginalized populations .
Marginalized populations are inequitably affected by law enforcement
action and violence. People of color comprised more than 50% of years
of life lost due to legal intervention in 2016, but account for just
under 40% of the U.S. population . Native Americans have been
killed by law enforcement, per capita, at a higher rate than any other
group in the U.S. (3.5 times higher than white Americans), with these
mortality data likely to be an undercount [7, 22]. In 2016, Black and
Native American individuals were over 2 and 3 times (respectively)
more likely to be killed by law enforcement than white individuals
. When stratified by sex and age, Black and Native American males
ages 15-34 were 9 and 6 times (respectively) more likely to be killed
than other Americans in their age group . Similarly, Black women
are disproportionately represented among women killed by police .
Black and Latino individuals are more likely to be stopped, arrested,
and experience non-fatal violence by law enforcement [1, 24-27]. Of
the 4,400 persons shot by officers from the 50 largest police
departments from 2010 to 2016, 55% were Black, more than double the
proportion of Black population in these departments’ jurisdictions
. In 2012, Black and Native American individuals made up
admissions to emergency departments for injury due to legal
intervention at 3 and 6 times (respectively) their representation in
the general population ; and in a nationally representative sample
of emergency departments from 2001-2014, Black individuals age 15-34
were treated for legal intervention injury at almost 5 times the rate
of their white counterparts . Students most at risk for violence
by school-based law enforcement officers include children with
disabilities, students of color, and poor students .
Other marginalized populations also experience inequitable exposure to
law enforcement violence. Among recorded U.S. deaths attributed to law
enforcement in 2015, an estimated 27 percent were individuals with
mental illness . Other groups highly affected by law enforcement
violence include, people who identify as transgender, lesbian, gay,
and/or bisexual [1, 33]; individuals experiencing houselessness ;
low-income individuals [1, 35]; sex workers [36, 37]; and people who
use drugs . Women also experience sexual violence by police
officers, particularly women of color. In a 2003 study in New York
City, 38% of Black women, 39% of Latinx women, and 13% of Asian or
Pacific Islander women reported being sexually harassed by police
officers . Immigrant communities are subject to policing from
local, state, and federal immigration authorities, such as the_
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS
ENFORCEMENT_. Immigration raids result in “immigration enforcement
stress,” and fear of interacting with government agents and informal
social networks . Policies that increase law enforcement contact,
or fear of contact, create barriers to health care and other
health-supportive services – including Medicaid, WIC, HIV
prevention, harm reduction programs, and domestic violence services
– for undocumented individuals and their U.S. citizen family
members. [39-43] The disproportionate impact of policing on these
communities has been documented since at least the 1960s .
Insufficient Monitoring and Surveillance of Law Enforcement Violence
Data presented above likely underestimate the magnitude of law
enforcement violence given that comprehensive information on deaths,
mental and physical injuries, and frequency of encounters is limited
(e.g., there is no systematic public health data on sexual assaults
committed by police). While the Federal Bureau of
Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting System and CDC’s
National Violent Death Report System (NVDRS) generate some data on
injuries and fatalities by law enforcement, they neglect indicators
vital to understanding the magnitude and scope of the issue, such as
type of injury, death on federal property (e.g., federal prisons,
tribal lands, military bases), and type of law enforcement officer(s)
involved [46-48]. Most concerning, reporting occurs on a voluntary
basis. As a result, even NDRS – the most reliable of the official
reporting systems – notably underestimates deaths by law
enforcement . The U.S. National Vital Statistics System (NVSS)
failed to capture 55% of such deaths in 2015 due to misclassification
. The magnitude of disparities in violence by school-based law
enforcement officers is likely underestimated as well, given
communication challenges and unreliable mechanisms for reporting abuse
. Given this, public health practitioners and researchers must
rely on non-governmental, web-based social media data sources, such as
The Guardian’s _The Counted_, which captured 93% of deaths by law
enforcement in 2015 [4, 5]. Yet, it is feasible to gather reliable,
real-time data on law enforcement-related deaths via existing public
health reporting mechanisms .
Policing as a mechanism of social control that exacerbates social
Ecosocial theory of disease distribution holds that to meaningfully
analyze and interpret the population distribution of a health
exposure, a grounding in the historical context from which the
exposure emerged is necessary . Namely, U.S. policing was
historically deployed for the social control of communities deemed
socially marginal (i.e., in the 19th century, it evolved from
ruling-class efforts to control the immigrant working class in the
North and slave patrols in the South) . Policies and practices
continue to implement and sustain this historical intent. For example,
the _WAR ON DRUGS_ assigned drug use intervention to law enforcement
in lieu of formulating a public health approach. Scholars suggest that
the associated “tough on crime” rhetoric was a racially coded
appeal to white populations across class lines, aimed at legitimating
targeted policing in communities of color [51, 52]. By encouraging
drug arrests with cash incentives, loosening restrictions on searches,
and creating a culture that encouraged law enforcement to repeatedly
stop and search people of color without reasonable cause, the federal
government disproportionately subjected marginalized communities to
increased contact with the law enforcement system . Data-driven
policing is another example of a structural and targeted policing
practice that links crime with place and race, and facilitates
increased contact with law enforcement among marginalized communities
Policies and practices that facilitate a system of discriminatory
policing are particularly problematic given the weakening of the Posse
Comitatus Act, the enactment of the National Defense Authorization
Act, and the 1033 program, which distribute surplus military equipment
to local and state law enforcement agencies [24, 55, 56]. Delivery of
military equipment to law enforcement agencies precipitates
military-style training, allows military weapons to become the tools
of law enforcement, and increases the use of Special Weapons and
Tactics (SWAT) techniques resulting in increasing rates of use of
force and extrajudicial murders by law enforcement -
disproportionately among marginalized communities [24, 57]. The
observed militarization and extensive purview of domestic law
enforcement is facilitated by mounting investments of federal funds in
police departments, and financial enticements .
Research on predictors of police force size conclude that the system
of law enforcement upholds existing racial and class hierarchies by
targeting socially marginalized groups - often low-income communities
of color. Key predictors, which maintain an association with police
force size after controlling for crime rates, include (1) size and
growth of populations of color, (2) racial economic inequality, and
(3) poverty [58, 59]. These findings suggest that these populations
are perceived as a threat to the social order and that policing is
used as a mechanism of control [58, 60]. Upholding social hierarchies
perpetuates and exacerbates adverse health outcomes among those who
are already disproportionately affected by inequities in key social
determinants of health - or those underlying factors that “affect a
wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and
risks,” and are widely understood in the field of public health to
be the primary contributors of persistent health inequities.
These include: access to education and economic opportunities;
perceptions of public safety and exposure to violence; quality of
housing and transportation; social norms and attitudes (e.g.,
discrimination, racism, and distrust of government); and availability
of community-based resources. [20, 61]
Ineffective response to social problems
The concentration of policing in socially marginalized communities -
and the associated public health threats - stems from a framework that
crime originates from inherently “bad” individuals and communities
- or a _“__THIN BLUE LINE__”_ ideology [44, 50, 60, 62]. Yet, the
social determinants of health framework indicates that efforts to
promote physical, mental, economic, and social wellbeing are more
effective if premised on an assessment of the social conditions
underlying the behaviors that are typically addressed through the
criminal justice system. With this framework, the range of
interpersonal harms and behaviors deemed “criminal” can be
understood from a_ _social determinants of health perspective as
emerging from social inequities. Theft, as just one example, can be
understood as a behavior to meet material survival needs in the
context of poverty due to long-standing, systematic economic
disinvestment from low-income communities of color, and
intra-community violence has been shown to be linked to the chronic
stress of poverty .
Criminalization of houselessness, sex work, and drug abuse exemplifies
how law enforcement is deployed to rectify social inequities .
However, laws that criminalize houselessness (e.g., local and state
laws prohibiting loitering and sleeping in public spaces) are costly
to enforce, perpetuate houselessness, and violate basic human rights,
among other harms to public health [63, 64]. The National Law Center
on Homelessness and Poverty finds that criminalizing behaviors
associated with houselessness violates the United Nations’
Convention Against Torture, and recommends that federal agencies take
active steps toward decriminalization while funding constructive
alternatives . Police officers have also indicated that
criminalization of houselessness is an ineffective response to the
root cause, and that responsibility for addressing houselessness
should lie outside of law enforcement’s purview .
Criminalization of sex work likewise results in high rates of law
enforcement violence toward sex workers and those assumed to be sex
workers, such as transgender women of color . Similarly, punitive
strategies of addressing drug abuse shows little evidence of reducing
substance abuse and has proven harmful to working-class communities of
Though the need to invest in addressing the social determinants of
health is clear, government spending on social services such as
housing assistance and education has decreased since the 1980s. The
Center for Budget and Policy Priorities documents a median budget
reduction of 26% among 11 of the 13 largest health, housing, and
social service block-grant programs between their inception in the
1980s and 2016, and a $13 billion reduction in these funding streams
between 2000 to 2016 . Yet, spending on policing increased 445%
between 1982 and 2007, including a 729% increase in federal funding
. The Center for Population Democracy found that in 9 out of 10
cities it examined, over one-quarter of general funds were committed
to local police departments. For instance, in Oakland, California, 41%
of the general fund went to the police department, which had a 19%
budget increase between 2013-2017, while total city expenditures
increased by just under 8% .
Barriers to accountability and reform
Between 2005 and 2011, only 47 police officers across the U.S. were
charged by prosecutors with a crime for their involvement in civilian
deaths, with 11 out of those 47 convicted . Multiple barriers
impede accountability and obstruct meaningful reform. Cultural
barriers, such as efforts to “protect one’s own,” can manifest
in a “code of silence,” or a norm of not reporting other
officers’ misconduct and protecting them during investigations [26,
Laws and policies— such as state-based police bills of rights
(generally referred to as Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights
or LEOBORs) and police union contracts—provide law enforcement
officers accused of excessive use of force or murder with protections
from investigation and disciplinary action, known as “super due
process” [72, 73], including suppression of law enforcement data
related to deaths . LEOBORs are found in 14 states and first
emerged in the 1970s when law enforcement officers pursued unionizing
efforts in reaction to grassroots mobilizations demanding democratic
accountability and transparency over police (e.g. civilian review
boards) given experiences of officer misconduct, corruption, and
brutality [75, 76]. LEOBOR provisions can generally be broken into two
categories: those which should be eliminated due to their ability to
hinder efforts to hold law enforcement officers accountable (e.g.,
investigative delays) [76, 77], and some protections that should be
extended to everyone, including civilians suspected of a crime (e.g.,
limits on the duration of interrogation) . Rights and protections
present in some LEOBORs that protect law enforcement officers from
merited accountability include: unreasonable limitations on reporting
time that disqualify civilian complaints; restriction of interrogation
of officers to other sworn officers; preventing civilians
investigators from interviewing or investigating officers; and
restrictions of public access to disciplinary records . In
addition, investigative delays, coupled with notifications of who will
interrogate an officer, and unrestricted access to all the evidence
brought against an officer, allow officers to prepare the
most-exculpatory and/or least-inculpatory narrative [75-77].
Structural racism embedded within “legal, social, and political
systems...enable[s] police officers to disproportionately stop people
of color, often without cause...with greater use of force [and]
without any repercussions” . Protective laws and policies,
obstruction from oversight, and cultural norms inhibit accountability,
confound reform, and lead to harm, especially among marginalized
X. Evidence-Based Strategies to Address the Problem
Improving Surveillance and Reporting of Law Enforcement Violence
Improvements to existing public health monitoring systems, such as
expanding NVDRS to include all states, and moving to more timely
processing and release of data at the local level - not just the state
level - could prove highly effective [6, 48, 80]. To leverage the
success of _The Counted _in capturing and classifying death by law
enforcement, state and local public health agencies could collect
additional data beyond what are typically reported by using validated,
existing social-media sources. In addition to these data already being
publicly available, they capture real-time reports that include data
on age, gender, race/ethnicity, and census tracts of residence and
death; and serve to correct misclassification in vital statistics [4,
5]. With regard to reporting, transparency can help identify
appropriate policy and programmatic intervention; evidence indicates
success of transparency measures such as: making health inequities
visible by presenting data stratified in relation to categories of
race/ethnicity, nativity, gender identity, sexual identity, and
socioeconomic position; including housing tenure (as a proxy for
houselessness); and presenting type of law enforcement official,
mechanism of death (firearm, Taser, chokehold, etc.), and locale of
death (e.g., on the street, in the decedent’s home, at a school, at
border crossing, etc.) [3, 6, 81]. Further, a mechanism for state and
local public health agencies to share data with various entities can
encourage appropriate prevention and intervention measures, such as
sharing with state attorney generals for further investigation .
Decriminalization of activities shaped by the experience of
As criminal justice scholars have argued, mass criminalization is a
key mechanism through which communities of color experience heightened
rates of law enforcement violence . Others have concluded that
disparities in contact with law enforcement may be a root cause of
differential exposure to physical violence by law enforcement, and
that “reducing inequality in police stops can simultaneously reduce
inequalities in exposure to violence” . Therefore, a critical
step in reducing both structurally-mediated physiological and
psychological violence by law enforcement is to repeal laws that
promote or justify increased scrutiny of specific populations. Such
laws include those relating to drug use or possession, sex work,
houselessness, and immigration. By removing justification for law
enforcement intervention, this will reduce encounters between law
enforcement officers and individuals whose activities are presently
criminalized. Crimes should not simply be downgraded to lower-level
offenses; for example, research shows that marijuana-related arrest
rates remained stable or increased when possession was reclassified as
a lesser offense but was still considered against the law . By
contrast, in Massachusetts courts ruled to limit police enforcement of
marijuana possession, and arrests fell by 86% . Not only can drug
decriminalization reduce arrests and incarceration, it also has the
public health benefit of increasing uptake of drug treatment, with
cost savings due to redirecting resources from criminal justice to the
health system . Regarding sex work, one meta-synthesis of
qualitative studies concluded that New Zealand’s full
decriminalization of sex work was associated with reductions in law
enforcement contact and improvements in HIV prevention among sex
workers . These findings may be generalizable to the U.S. context
and serve as a model for structural intervention. Decriminalization is
consistent with the WHO recommendations for structural interventions
that address social determinants of health for marginalized groups
Under certain legislation, criminalization extends to protesting and
mass mobilizations - which are vital means by which marginalized
communities voice concerns. In 2017, several states passed
anti-protest legislation; among them were North Dakota and South
Dakota, where, in 2016, protestors against the Dakota Access Pipeline
at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation - including many Native
Americans - were met with violent force by local law enforcement and
the North Dakota National Guard, leading the United Nations (UN) to
declare human rights violations [86, 87]. Advocating against such laws
is critical to protect free speech, human rights, and reduce
unnecessary contact with law enforcement.
Reallocation of funds from policing to the social determinants of
As described above, policing reproduces inequitable social and
economic conditions that precipitate intervention by law enforcement.
This places both law enforcement officers and marginalized community
members at risk of injury, death, and adverse health outcomes. By
contrast, a public health approach targets the structural inequities
that manifest in criminalized behaviors by addressing the social
determinants of health._ _[88, 89]._ _Such approaches include
increasing access to housing, expanding educational and employment
opportunities, increasing access to mental health and substance use
treatment, and restoring a sense of safety by addressing interpersonal
and institutional factors contributing to perceptions of safety and
experiences of discrimination . The social determinants of health
approach is associated with reduced community trauma and interpersonal
harm, improved community health and safety , and is the basis of
the CDC’s recommendations for data-driven, community-level,
prevention-focused interventions . This approach is a key element
of the Movement for Black Lives platform, a policy agenda that calls
for “reallocation of funds at the federal, state, and local level
from policing and incarceration...to long-term safety strategies such
as education, local restorative justice services, and employment
Evidence demonstrates the benefits of shifting from criminalization to
a framework grounded in social determinants and primary prevention.
For example, there is a well-established link between improving
educational attainment and positive outcomes in employment and
socioeconomic outcomes, and subsequent positive short- and long-term
health outcomes . More evidence is found in houselessness
services. The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness recommends
providing permanent housing as a proven approach to improve health
among those experiencing houselessness, as such efforts have been
associated with higher housing retention rates, reductions in use of
crisis services and institutions, and improvements in health and
social outcomes , and have been cost effective [94, 95].
Similarly, because exposure to violence is a critical determinant of
health, and can lead to further violence by trauma survivors and later
contact with law enforcement , “trauma-informed” approaches to
care and policy are recommended across sectors . Reinvestment in
community resources can also occur in tertiary prevention by using a
health model for crisis response. For example, health workers in
Oakland are training community members to respond to mental health
crises and suspected overdoses in ways that minimize law enforcement
The above evidence, combined with the decreasing crime rates ,
suggests that funds disproportionately allocated to policing could be
more effectively invested in social services to improve health,
particularly in communities where historically-rooted endemic
disinvestment has negatively contributed to health disparities.
Strategies to ensure community safety without reliance on armed law
Although greater social and economic equity is likely to lead to
higher quality of life for marginalized communities, interpersonal
harm will still exist, and strategies to ensure community safety will
still be necessary. Alternative approaches can improve public safety
without the harms associated with the system of policing. For
instance, community-based violence intervention programs that detect
and interrupt potentially violent conflicts, identify and treat
high-risk situations, and mobilize the community to change norms have
significantly reduced homicides and nonfatal shootings in the urban
neighborhoods with the highest numbers of incidents . These
programs have had success employing violence interrupters and
culturally appropriate unarmed street outreach workers; these
interrupters have been able to defuse potentially harmful or violent
situations with no, or minimal, intervention by police .
Similarly, restorative justice is a non-punitive approach to resolving
interpersonal harm through dialogue between perpetrators, victims, and
others affected without reliance on law enforcement. Its
implementation in school settings has been associated with reduced
suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement . Future
programs might increase efficacy by ensuring the populations most
affected by law enforcement violence lead program design and
implementation, which is widely acknowledged as best practice .
XI. Opposing Arguments and Evidence
Arguments against reducing law enforcement presence and ensuring
accountability as mechanisms to address law enforcement violence
assert that these strategies will increase crime, decrease public
safety, and harm public health. Others propose to address law
enforcement violence through tactics such as community-oriented
policing, use of body-mounted cameras and Tasers, and increases in
officer training. This section presents these arguments along with
research that suggests the former strategies are aligned with a public
health approach and have a negligible impact on increasing crime or
decreasing public safety, while the latter tactics do not address the
structural predictors of law enforcement violence nor its health
Opposing Argument #1: Decriminalization harms the public’s health
Proposals to decriminalize drug possession and sex work are often met
with concern that doing so will negatively affect the public’s
health. For example, opponents suggest decriminalization of drugs
leads to an increase in drug use and higher rates of traffic
accidents. Initial research on decriminalization has yielded mixed
findings [101, 102], and studies show that the legitimate concern
about negative health effects of drug use is better addressed with
health service approaches. Data from Portugal, which decriminalized
all drug use in 2001, when compared with Spain and Italy – which
maintained criminal penalties for drug use – showed increased uptake
of drug treatment, reductions in opiate-related deaths and infectious
diseases, and increases in the quantity of drugs seized by the
authorities due to shifting law enforcement resources from minor
possession crimes to a focus on traffickers . Many organizations
support drug decriminalization to improve human rights and public
health, such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Humans
Rights , The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
, and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime . Existing APHA
policy supports a public health strategy on drug use, marked by
recommendations for an end to criminalization of personal drug
possession and use (APHA 7121, 8817, 201312), and prioritization of
treatment and harm reduction strategies, such as ensuring access to
sterile syringes . WHO recommends that countries work towards
decriminalization of drug use and sex work as a means of reducing
known barriers to health services and treatment .
Regarding sex work, there are concerns that decriminalizing sex work
could facilitate human trafficking, exploitation, and other forms of
violence. Sex workers and advocates note that sex work is not
synonymous with “sex trafficking,” and distinguish between various
forms of sex work (sex work, survival sex work, and forced sexual
labor aka “sex trafficking”; _see glossary for expanded
definitions_) as it relates to the nuances of sex workers’
experiences (including interactions with police) . As noted
above, an environment of fully decriminalized sex work can improve
health outcomes and reduce interactions with police .
Decriminalization and/or full legalization of _all_ forms of sex work
have been overwhelmingly recommended by sex worker study participants
and by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and
WHO, citing these approaches as means to remove harms caused by
disproportionate psychological and physical law enforcement violence,
and to eliminate punitive laws that inhibit sex workers’ abilities
to report human trafficking, forced sexual labor, and other forms of
violence and exploitation [36, 108, 109].
Opposing Argument #2: Increased law enforcement funding protects the
Because of the current structure of civil society, institutions of law
enforcement are perceived as necessary to protect the public from harm
and violence either through direct intervention or as a crime
deterrent vis-a-vis increasing perceived risk of arrest. The argument
follows that reducing law enforcement budgets will adversely affect
communities. However, an incremental increase in quantity of law
enforcement officers has not been linked to decreased violent or
property crime. In fact, a meta-analysis of studies published between
1973 and 2013 found no statistically significant association between
police force size and combined violent and property crime rates, and
that violent crime remained stable when law enforcement abruptly
withdrew from neighborhoods . A nationally representative survey
of urban areas found that police force size did not act as a crime
deterrent for violent or property crimes vis-a-vis increasing
perception of arrest risk . In school settings, there is no
evidence that school crime or mass shootings have been reduced by
increasing campus presence of law officers (known as school resource
officers) . Ultimately, research suggests that law enforcement
presence has not been shown to consistently reduce crime –
especially violent crime – and its adverse impacts on people’s
lives. Nonetheless, spending on municipal policing has increased
substantially over the last few decades . Proponents of increases
in law enforcement funding argue that decreasing crime trends are a
result of this increased investment. However, the Congressional Budget
Office and others researchers note that multiple drivers can explain
this reduction, including demographic and economic changes, and social
investments [3, 113].
Opposing Argument #3: Interventions should implement novel policing
strategies (e.g., community-oriented policing, body-cameras, Tasers,
training), not reduce law enforcement presence.
3a: Community Oriented Policing
Some have argued that specific policing strategies, such as
_COMMUNITY-ORIENTED POLICING (COPS)_, will reduce law enforcement
violence. COPS was designed to increase policing effectiveness by
building relationships between law enforcement and community to
address the crisis of legitimacy police departments experienced after
the urban rebellions of the 1960s . Seventy percent of police
departments across the United States report COPS activities .
COPS strategies have changed over time and are inconsistent across
departments, but may include assigning specific patrol officers to a
single neighborhood, encouraging partnerships with community
organizations and other city agencies, and emphasizing problem solving
in conjunction with the community , arguably “significantly
broaden[ing] the reach of the police, perhaps giving them even more
Numerous investigations of COPS —including a 2014 meta-analysis—
show little impact on crime prevention or community members’
feelings of safety; however, COPS appears to be associated with
increases in citizen satisfaction and perceived police legitimacy, and
decreases in perceived disorder [34, 116]. Historically, government
agencies have recommended community-oriented policing strategies as a
means of improving relationships between community members and law
enforcement officers, especially after high-profile deaths by law
enforcement, rather than as a mechanism for reducing law enforcement
violence [44, 62]. For example, the Chicago Alternative Policing
Strategy (CAPS) at the Chicago Police Department, which was lauded as
effective and helped pave the way for the national COPS program, has
been under continued scrutiny for police brutality and killings .
If the goal of public health is to reduce violence due to underlying
structural and social determinants of health, strategies should aim to
reduce the violence of the system of law enforcement, rather than be
designed primarily to improve relationships between law enforcement
officers and members of marginalized communities.
Few studies of community-oriented policing critically assess the
nature of partnerships that police develop with communities and who is
included in – or excluded from –the “community.” An important
exception is a grassroots research project conducted by a community
group that visited meetings of CAPS in neighborhoods across the city,
focusing on neighborhoods affected by gentrification . The group
reported that police officers encouraged the mostly white,
property-owning residents who attended CAPS meetings to surveil their
neighbors, report minor infractions such as loitering and public
drinking, and report anyone who seemed “out of place,” turning to
law enforcement interventions more frequently and quickly,” which
results in increasing “surveillance of a community’s most
vulnerable residents or visitors” . This pattern of increased
surveillance has been observed in other cities, and has been posited
by legal scholars as one pathway that promotes law enforcement
violence against African Americans, raising important questions about
perpetuation of social and racial discrimination through COPS .
Finally, community policing coexists in many departments alongside
more aggressive policing styles, including increased surveillance and
racial profiling, which may be employed to address issues identified
in community contexts, even as departments publicly emphasize
community-oriented activities .
3b: Use of Tasers and other conducted electrical weapons
Another tactic argued to address law enforcement violence is
technological tools, such as conducted electrical weapons (known as
CEWs or Tasers). While CEWs may be less lethal than handguns, they
were associated with more than 500 deaths from 2001 to 2014, 90% of
which occurred when the victim was unarmed . Risk of adverse
effects from Taser shocks is higher in people who suffer from
pre-existing cardiac conditions or other medical conditions - such as
being prone to epilepsy, or who are experiencing drug intoxication
. Adverse consequences of CEW shocks are also higher after a
struggle . Amnesty International and the UN Committee on Torture
recommend restricting use of CEWs to situations in which police would
otherwise use lethal force [118, 119].
3c: Body- and dashboard-mounted cameras
Increased funding for body-mounted cameras is often put forth as a
measure to reduce law enforcement violence because of the presumed
increase in transparency and accountability offered by these devices.
An oft-cited example of body cameras’ success is in Rialto,
California, where reports of use of force by law enforcement dropped
by 50% in the first year of body camera implementation, and citizen
complaints dropped by 88% . However, more representative studies
have found harmful associations of use of force with body camera use,
or no association at all. A national study of more than 2,000
departments revealed a statistically significant association of
wearable body cameras with a 3.6% increase in fatal police shootings
of civilians, and no significant association with use of dash cameras
. The largest and most rigorous randomized control trial on the
use of body cameras by Washington D.C.’s Metropolitan Police
Department (MPD) found that wearing body cameras had no statistically
significant effect on use of force, civilian complaints, officer
discretion, whether a case was prosecuted, or disposition .
Issues of policy, protocol, and intentional sabotage raise additional
questions about the efficacy of body and dashboard-mounted cameras in
decreasing law enforcement violence or increasing accountability for
perpetrated violence. One third of police departments using body
cameras do so without written policies, which may give officers
discretion over their use and lead to selective recording . Most
existing policy on body cameras does not guarantee that law
enforcement agencies must make footage publicly accessible, and many
other policies are inconsistent or unclear . Recordings may also
be deleted by police; in Chicago, 80% of dash-camera video footage was
missing sound due to error and “intentional destruction” .
Even when key events are recorded, these videos do not necessarily
increase accountability because of cultural, institutional, and
structural barriers described above.
3d: Training in implicit bias and crisis intervention
Another oft-touted reform is mandatory training to reduce implicit
bias of law enforcement officers against communities of color. This
training is predicated on the understanding that officers’ decisions
to use (or restrain from) force are influenced by unconscious biases,
such as associations between Black individuals and criminality .
However, little is known about these biases effects on behavior, and
no experimental studies have measured the impact of implicit bias
reduction interventions among law enforcement officers .
Other methods of proposed training to improve community experiences
with law enforcement include Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training,
generalized de-escalation training, and mental health training - which
can include interagency collaboration. For example, CIT-trained
officers are taught to recognize people suffering from mental illness
and crises, de-escalate the situation, and link individuals with
mental health care rather than arrest. A systematic review of
interagency collaboration models for contact with police for mentally
ill people finds that evidence regarding the efficacy of such training
and collaboration models is limited, that there have been no robust
evaluations, and that existing evidence rarely examines the impact on
community experience with police or police use of force - focusing
instead on organizational outcomes such as arrest rates - which occur
after initial contact with police . In the example of CIT,
existing studies are based on data collected from surveys of officers
in classroom settings and not actual outcomes with citizens .
Public health scholars and organizations including the International
Association of Chiefs of Police and National Research Council
acknowledge that only very limited evaluation of law enforcement
training has occurred, and extant evaluations have focused on
officers' attitudes rather than one-the-job performance [129-131].
Officers generally receive limited de-escalation training , and
national efforts to increase de-escalation training have been met with
resistance from police chiefs and the national Fraternal Order of
Police . Leaders from these groups have expressed fear that
hesitation to use force may put officers’ lives at risk. In this
context, it remains to be seen whether de-escalation training will
lead to less law enforcement violence, and more rigorous evaluation
would be necessary to warrant any scalable implementation.
While it does not address the root causes of law enforcement violence
discussed above, CIT and other de-escalation training could function
as harm reduction for law enforcement violence. In keeping with this
statement’s other recommendations, if additional training of law
enforcement officers is used as a harm reduction strategy, then one
must consider the investment of funds and other resources required to
do so as restitution, ideally using re-allocations from existing law
enforcement budgets and savings from eliminating enforcement of laws
that do not promote public safety. Further, as previously stated, such
programs would require rigorous evaluation to maintain funding.
To sum up Opposing Argument #3, efforts to improve law enforcement
officer behavior are at best unsupported and at worst, perpetuate
harm. The notion that escalating law enforcement presence is the
antidote to inequality is inherent in these opposing arguments. Even
if some strategies demonstrate some benefit, they fall short of
addressing the fundamental causes of the issues law enforcement
agencies are deployed to address. Moreover, they obscure the fact that
law enforcement presence in marginalized communities has historically
served to maintain state control over said communities. While
President Obama’s Task Force Report on 21st Century Policing
recommended training, COPS, and body and dash cameras , it did not
incorporate upstream, public health strategies to address root causes
of law enforcement violence. Though it acknowledged unrealistic roles
delegated to police officers, and that policies related to drug use
and sentencing affect policing, it deemed these policies “beyond the
scope of a review of police practices” . This acknowledgement
lends support for an upstream, public health approach to mitigate law
enforcement violence, focus on community-based alternatives, and
reducing contact with law enforcement. Such upstream approaches will
prove even more critical in the context of federal administrations
that promote aggressive policing policies and practices.
Opposing Argument #4: LEOBORs protect law enforcement officers from
unfair administrators & false accusations.
As described above, LEOBORs were intended as law enforcement
protections from aggressive, coercive administrators and false
accusations. However, as Jonathan Smith, former chief of special
litigation in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of
Justice, stated, LEOBORs and collective bargaining agreements create
“barriers to actual accountability that don't serve the public
good,” given that law enforcement officers can accumulate multiple
complaints and remain employed (and even see upward career mobility)
. Provisions in LEOBORs that rightfully protect officers from
coercive interrogations when they are suspects of crime – such as
conducting interrogations at reasonable times and guarantees they can
attend to their biological needs – would better serve public health
if extended to all suspects .
While public safety is essential for public health, as a society we
have delegated this important function almost exclusively to law
enforcement. Evidence of continued law enforcement violence shows that
U.S. policing has failed to equitably deliver safety, placing an
inequitable burden of mental and physical harm on socially and
economically marginalized populations . Indeed, as argued by
Geller et al., “any benefits achieved by aggressive proactive
policing tactics may be offset by serious costs to individual and
community health” . Community-centered strategies for addressing
harm and violence can increase public safety without the violence
associated with policing. Investment in these strategies, as well as
comprehensively documenting and intervening in cases of law
enforcement violence, is a promising way forward.
XII. Action Steps
_1. _Urges federal agencies, localities, and states to add
death or injury by legal intervention to their list of reportable
conditions - including the CDC adding legal interventions to their
list of Nationally Notifiable Conditions. APHA further urges CDC to
expand the NVDRS to include all states and move to more timely
processing and release of data at the local level. APHA urges CDC and
the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) to create
surveillance protocols informed by research on causes of
misclassification and underreporting of deaths due to legal
intervention, and to provide technical assistance to states to rectify
_2. _Urges that Congress fund the National Institute of
Justice and the CDC to conduct research on the health consequences,
both individual and community-wide, of law enforcement violence,
particularly exploring the disproportionate burden of morbidity and
mortality among people of color; people with disabilities or mental
illness; people who are experiencing houselessness; poor people; LGBTQ
populations; and immigrant populations. Funds should also support
research to determine how to generate valid estimates of injuries due
to police violence.
_3. _Urges that Congress also fund the National Institutes of
Health to study the effectiveness of interventions that may decrease
the reliance on law enforcement, including decriminalization,
increased investment in social determinants of health, and
community-based alternatives that promote public safety, such as
violence intervention and restorative justice.
_4. _Urges federal, state, tribal, and municipal governments
to fund programs that meet human need, promote healthy and strong
communities, and reduce structural inequities (economic, racial, and
social) – such as employment initiatives, educational opportunities,
and affordable housing – including by using resources currently
devoted to law enforcement.
_5. _Urges federal, state, tribal, and municipal governments
to advance equity and justice by decriminalizing activities shaped by
the experience of marginalization, and eliminating officer enforcement
of regulations designed to control marginalized people, including, but
not limited to, substance use and possession, sex work, loitering,
sleeping in public, minor traffic violations (e.g., expired
registrations, jaywalking, not signaling a lane change, broken
taillights), and targeting undocumented immigrants; and to also ensure
that decriminalized offenses are removed from the purview of law
enforcement. An existing precedent is the Massachusetts’
Decriminalization of Misdemeanors Law.
_6. _Urges federal, state, tribal, and municipal governments
and law enforcement agencies to engage in a review of law enforcement
agencies’ formal and informal policies and practices in order to
eliminate those that lead to disproportionate violence against
specific populations – contracting with non-governmental
organizations to do so in order to encourage objectivity. Examples of
such policies and practices may include racial and identity profiling,
stop and frisk, gang injunctions, and enforcement of laws that
_7. _Urges federal, state, tribal, and municipal governments
to allocate funding from law enforcement agencies to community-based
programs that address violence and harm without criminalizing
communities, including mental health intervention and violence
prevention and intervention, and restorative justice programs,
particularly in the communities currently most affected by law
enforcement violence. In the development and scaling of newer
modalities for addressing and preventing harm, careful consideration
should be given to constructing protections for privacy, dignity, and
_8. _Urges federal, state, tribal, and municipal governments
and law enforcement agencies to reverse the militarization of law
enforcement, including by eliminating the acquisition and use of
military equipment and reducing the number of SWAT teams and the
frequency of their deployment.
_9. _Urges state legislative bodies to eliminate legislative
provisions that shield law enforcement officers from investigation and
accountability and urges municipal governments (both executive and
legislative branches) to negotiate police union contracts to eliminate
barriers to identifying, investigating, and addressing possible law
enforcement officer misconduct.
_10. _Urges law enforcement agencies and oversight bodies to provide
full public disclosure of all investigations of law enforcement
officer brutality and excessive use of force as well as access to
recordings of any incidents in question, which should be deemed public
property. These materials could be made public through an online
Appendix A: Glossary Terms
Decriminalization refers to the repeal or narrowing of criminal
statutes, to remove all or portions of a conduct from the purview of
the criminal law. It can also refer to the codification of
decriminalization practices, in which a criminal offense remains a
part of criminal law, but is no longer enforced . This process
differs from legalization, which refers to a legislative regime
characterized by significant regulations—many of which can limit
rights and protections, create mechanisms for abuse by authorities,
and have other negative impacts. While the specific ways in which a
jurisdiction enacts decriminalization may differ, there are a variety
of examples to learn from. New Zealand and New South Wales, Australia
are two jurisdictions known for their decriminalized sex industries
 while Portugal acts as a model of drug use decriminalization
. APHA Policy Statement 7121 explicitly calls for ending
criminalization of the use of “alcohol, marijuana, or other
substances when no other illegal act has been committed” (7121).
Policy Statement 201312 (2013) recommended the removal of “criminal
penalties and collateral sanctions for personal drug use and
possession offenses” while recognizing that “proportionate
criminal penalties may be appropriate—consistent with principles of
public health and human rights—for behavior that occurs in
conjunction with drug use if that behavior causes or seriously risks
harm to others, such as driving under the influence; however, such
penalties should not be imposed solely for personal drug possession
and use.” (Policy Statement 2012, 2013)
SEX WORK: Sex workers and advocates generally classify the sex trade
into three categories, with the understanding that there is more
nuance within and crossover between these categories:
_Sex Workers: _people who exchange sexual labor for money or goods
_Survival Sex:_ is by choice, but under circumstances of economic
duress, and is often a symptom of intersectional issues of poverty,
houselessness, lack of economic options, racism, and transphobia
_Forced sexual labor: _(often referred to as “sex trafficking”)
people who have been forced, coerced or manipulated into the sex
THE COUNTED: draws from official US databases, media outlets, social
media, and crowdsourced websites (such as _Fatal Encounters_ and
_Killed by Police)_ to deaths attributable to direct encounters with
law enforcement, including, “people who were shot, tasered and
struck by police vehicles as well as those who died in police
THE DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY BUREAU OF IMMIGRATION AND CUSTOMS
ENFORCEMENT (ICE): the largest investigative unit under DHS; it works
with other federal and local law enforcement agencies—including
local police departments—to enforce immigration policy .
THIN BLUE LINE IDEOLOGY: according to Chicano historian Edward J.
Escobar, “Chief of Police William H. Parker Described the LAPD as
‘the thin blue line’ that stood between civilization and chaos”
. This idea assumes that social problems are due to concentrations
of ‘pathological’ people in certain areas and require police to
keep 'those' people from harming others. This ideology takes
people-with-problems and represents them as problems to be suppressed,
detained, or deported, and fails to examine fundamental
social-structural issues that linked with unwanted behaviors, and, as
such, fails to consider complex strategies to resolve these issues.
Moreover, this way of viewing people and issues of safety is countered
by a public health approach of addressing social and structural
determinants of health.
WAR ON DRUGS: “President Reagan officially declared the current drug
war in 1982, when drug crime was declining, not rising. From the
outset, the war had little to do with drug crime and nearly everything
to do with racial politics. The drug war was part of a grand and
highly successful Republican Party strategy of using racially coded
political appeals on issues of crime and welfare to attract poor and
working-class white voters who were resentful of, and threatened by,
desegregation, busing, and affirmative action. In the words of HR
Haldeman, President Richard Nixon’s White House Chief of Staff,
‘[T]he whole problem is really the blacks. They key is to devise a
system that recognizes this while not appearing to” .
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