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Study: Black youths experience higher rates of injury after police encounters

A new study finds racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by injuries during encounters with law enforcement compared with White people. Photo by Diego Fabian Parra Pabon/Pixabay
A new study finds racial and ethnic minorities are disproportionately affected by injuries during encounters with law enforcement compared with White people. Photo by Diego Fabian Parra Pabon/Pixabay

Sept. 7 (UPI) -- Black adolescents and teens in California are "substantially" more likely to suffer injuries during interactions with law enforcement compared to White adolescents and teens, a study published Tuesday by JAMA Pediatrics found.

In the analysis of nearly 16,000 young people who required medical care after encounters with law enforcement in the state between 2005 and 2017, Black teens age 15 to 19 had a more than three-fold higher risk for injury than White youths of the same age, the data showed.

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They also were more than twice as likely to experience injuries during police encounters than Hispanic teens.

Black adolescents ages 10 to 14 had a four-fold higher risk for these injuries than White adolescents in the same age group, according to the researchers.

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"Findings from this study emphasize that experiences of and inequities in hospital-treated injuries caused by law enforcement start at an early age," study co-author Kriszta Farkas told UPI in an email.

They "point to an important role that pediatricians and other clinicians have in documenting these incidents, providing appropriate and compassionate care and advocating for structural change," said Farkas, a public health researcher at the University of California-Berkeley.

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The California Peace Officers Association, an advocacy organization for state and local law enforcement personnel, did not respond to a request for comment on the findings.

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About 40 million people in the United States have direct encounters with law enforcement annually, and roughly one-third of them involve young people, according to a report from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Of these encounters between law enforcement and young people, roughly 1 million result in an arrest, the report estimates.

Data from Pew Research suggests that Black young people are more than twice as likely to be arrested compared with their White peers.

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A 2017 study found that, in the United States, Black people of all ages accounted for about 30% of those shot and killed by police in 2015, despite their making up only 13% of the total population.

However, law enforcement officers have higher rates of work-related injuries compared to other occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For this study, Farkas and her colleagues analyzed data on nearly 16,000 teens ages 10 to 19 who were treated for injuries after encounters with law enforcement in California between 2005 and 2017.

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Black and Hispanic youth accounted for 19% and 46% of the reported injuries, respectively, while White young people were involved in 24%, the data showed.

Black people make up just under 7% of the state's population, and Hispanic people account for less than 40%, according to figures from the U.S. census.

Just under 37% of the state's population identifies as White, based on census data.

Black males ages 15 to 19 were 3.5 times as likely as White males in that age group to require treatment for injuries after encounters with law enforcement, while Black females had a four-fold higher injury rate than White females.

Black males ages 10 to 14 had a more than five times higher rate of injury than White males those ages, while Black females in that age group had a nearly seven-fold higher injury rate.

"This study highlights the need for more comprehensive and reliable population-based data sources on police violence in the United States, so that federal, state and local initiatives to reduce police violence can be informed by accurate data," Farkas said.

"These results emphasize that ... the protections of childhood are not afforded to all children [and] are also consistent with prior work on police violence as a mechanism of structural racism, disproportionately shaping the lives of [minority] children and adolescents," she said.

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