Aggressive Policing and the Mental Health of Young Urban Men

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Objectives. We surveyed young men on their experiences of police encounters and subsequent mental health.

Methods. Between September 2012 and March 2013, we conducted a population-based telephone survey of 1261 young men aged 18 to 26 years in New York City. Respondents reported how many times they were approached by New York Police Department officers, what these encounters entailed, any trauma they attributed to the stops, and their overall anxiety. We analyzed data using cross-sectional regressions.

Results. Participants who reported more police contact also reported more trauma and anxiety symptoms, associations tied to how many stops they reported, the intrusiveness of the encounters, and their perceptions of police fairness.

Conclusions. The intensity of respondent experiences and their associated health risks raise serious concerns, suggesting a need to reevaluate officer interactions with the public. Less invasive tactics are needed for suspects who may display mental health symptoms and to reduce any psychological harms to individuals stopped.

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Amanda Geller, PhD, Jeffrey Fagan, PhD, Tom Tyler, PhD, and Bruce G. Link, PhDAt the time of the study, Amanda Geller was with the Department of Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY. Jeffrey Fagan is with Columbia Law School, Columbia University. Tom Tyler is with Yale Law School, Yale University, New Haven, CT. Bruce G. Link is with the Department of Epidemiology, Mailman School of Public Health. “Aggressive Policing and the Mental Health of Young Urban Men”, American Journal of Public Health 104, no. 12 (December 1, 2014): pp. 2321-2327.

PMID: 25322310