Police Violence Is a Public Health Crisis - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Police Violence Is a Public Health Crisis

September 23, 2020

As Chicago reels from the all too frequent occurrence of police shooting people in our city neighborhoods and throughout the nation, and the city sees more punitive responses to protestors implemented, the staff at Health & Medicine is compelled to speak out and join with organizations like Black Lives Matter Chicago, Assata’s Daughters, and Good Kids Mad City in their calls for the defunding of the Chicago Police Department. Police violence is a public health crisis. More than 300 Black Americans are killed by police every year in the United States, and hundreds more are injured by shootings, beatings, and other violent acts of suppression, including here in Chicago[i]. This continued structural racism and exposure to trauma, coupled with persistent acts of violence and denial of essential services in place of policing, leads to massive racial health inequities across our city.

We condemn the actions of CPD, not only during the summer of 2020, but throughout this city’s history of racist structural violence against Black and brown communities through over-policing and incarceration. We stand with those demanding that Mayor Lightfoot and the city council act immediately to prohibit police from enforcing non-serious offenses- including issuing fines and making arrests of protestors- and we condemn their continued refusal to act in the best interest of Chicagoans’ health and well-being. We also demand that the city immediately begin the path of divesting the more than $1.7 billion dollars allocated to the police department[ii] to alternatives that will keep Chicago communities safe and thriving, such as expanded mental health services, education and career training, and economic opportunities for businesses in communities of color.

The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”[iii] It is not enough to remove one officer or change one policy. CPD must be defunded and alternatives must be implemented. Only then can Chicago be on the path toward health equity.

[i] Bor, Jacob et al. (2018). Police killings and their spillover effects on the mental health of Black Americans: a population-based, quasi-experimental study. The Lancet, Volume 392, Issue 10144, 302 – 310. Retrieved fromhttps://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(18)31130-9/fulltext

[ii] Hacker, Christopher (2019). “CPD budget to swell to over $1.7 billion in 2020 budget” CBSN Chicago: November 4, 2019. Retrieved from https://chicago.cbslocal.com/2019/11/04/cpd-budget-to-swell-to-over-1-7-billion-in-2020-budget/

[iii] World Health Organization (2020). “What is the WHO definition of health?” in “Frequently asked questions”. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/about/who-we-are/frequently-asked-questions