With public outcry of police shootings of African Americans and the Black Lives Matter Movement, the American Public Health Association has recognized police violence as a public health crisis. Alarmingly, a new study reveals why.
In 2018, more than 500 people died of a firearm injury sustained from encounters with law enforcement officials in the United States, according to a new study from the journal Pediatrics.
Many of them were Black and young.
Researchers at the Children’s National Hospital in northwest D.C. analyzed national data from death certificates compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, including the cause of death and race and ethnicity. They identified all adolescents between age 12 and 17 who died from firearm injuries due to police intervention between 2003 and 2018 and compared rates of these deaths across racial and ethnic groups based on U.S. Census Bureau data.
During the 16-year study period, 140 children died from police intervention and of those, 113 involved firearms. About 93 percent of the children killed were boys, with an average age of 16.
The study found that Black children were six times more likely to be shot to death by the police than their white peers over a 16-year period.
It also noted that Hispanic children were three times more likely to be shot to death than white children.
“Our study confirms these disparities that are stark and unacceptable,” said Dr. Monika K. Goyal of Children’s National Hospital, the study’s lead researcher, according to the Equal Justice Initiative.
She later told CNN that “the results are not surprising, but that doesn’t take away from the tragedy of these results. When we see that this extends to children, it makes this issue even more tragic.”
The study also adds to a growing body of research on disparities children of color face.
These disparities include:
• Black newborns are three times more likely to die if their doctor is white instead of Black.
• Black children are 3.5 times more likely to experience serious complications, including death, after surgery.
• Black children are more likely to go missing than white children.
• Black and Hispanic children are more likely to be hospitalized after contracting COVID-19 and more likely to have virus-related complications.
“Any death of a child is devastating, but when it is due to police violence, it leads to distrust in the system and undermines the primary mission to protect,” Goyal offered. “The pattern of stark racial and ethnic disparities only adds to this tragedy, further oppressing and alienating communities of color. It’s important to investigate, identify, and correct those policies and personnel that perpetuate and exacerbate these disparities.”