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Study shows contact with police may be detrimental to health, well-being of Black youth

According to a new JAMA Pediatrics study, exposure to police — even in instances in which the officers are providing assistance — may be detrimental to the health and well-being of Black youth, especially males, and can be associated with poor mental health, substance use, risky sexual behaviors and impaired safety.

“While there has been growing attention toward the deaths of Black Americans by police, less focus is being given to the everyday, routine encounters that Black youth have with police,” said lead author Dr. Monique Jindal, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois Chicago. “Our study is among the first to summarize the current scientific evidence that describes how contact with police — which has been shown to be disproportionate for Black youth even when accounting for criminal or delinquent behavior — impacts their health and well-being.”

For the study, “Police Exposures and the Health and Well-being of Black Youth in the US: A Systematic Review,” Jindal, who conducted the research as a pediatric fellow at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, and her former colleagues from Johns Hopkins Medicine define police exposure as both contact with police and perceptions of police discrimination. Examples of contact with police included the presence of police in schools, personal experiences ranging from benign stops and interactions to use of force and arrest, and witnessed encounters. The health outcomes they assessed included physical health, mental health, risk behaviors such as substance abuse and safety.

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