Police killings, deaths a public health issue

2 min read

Black men, compared to white men, were at a five to 19 times greater risk of a law enforcement-related death over the past 50 years, according to a study led by Nancy Krieger, professor of social epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. She recently spoke to Voice of America about a report she published last year that has gained renewed attention in the wake of police shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota, and the shootings of five white police officers in Texas. The report calls for all law enforcement-related deaths—including people killed by police as well as police killed in the line of duty—to be reported and treated as a public health issue.

“We are starting with the basic principle that first you need to know what the patterns are,” Krieger said in the July 13, 2016 article, “and then you start doing the kinds of research to try to understand why.”

Krieger and colleagues propose that law enforcement-related deaths be treated not just as criminal data but as a “notifiable condition,” and that they be reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) by public health and medical professionals and published on a weekly basis, as are a host of other conditions ranging from poisonings to pertussis to polio.