Collateral Damage: The Health Effects of Invasive Police Encounters in New York City


The health effects of police surveillance practices for the community at-large are unknown. Using microlevel health data from the 2009–2012 New York City Community Health Survey (NYC-CHS) nested within mesolevel data from the 2009–2012 NYC Stop, Question, and Frisk (NYC-SQF) dataset, this study evaluates contextual and ethnoracially variant associations between invasive aspects of pedestrian stops and multiple dimensions of poor health. Results reveal that living in neighborhoods where pedestrian stops are more likely to become invasive is associated with worse health. Living in neighborhoods where stops are more likely to result in frisking show the most consistent negative associations. More limited deleterious effects can be attributed to living in neighborhoods where stops are more likely to involve use of force or in neighborhoods with larger ethnoracial disparities in frisking or use of force. However, the health effects of pedestrian stops vary by ethnoracial group in complex ways. For instance, minorities who live in neighborhoods with a wider ethno racial disparity in police behavior have poorer health outcomes in most respects, but blacks have lower odds of diabetes when they live in neighborhoods where they face a higher risk that a stop will involve use of force by police than do whites. The findings suggest that the consequences of the institutionalization of the carceral state are far-reaching.

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This work was conducted while the first author was a Vice Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Population Studies Center at the University of Pennsylvania

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Correspondence to Abigail A. Sewell.



TABLE 4 The effects of invasive police encounters on poor self-rated health, average and race-specific effects: 2009–2012 NYC Community Health Survey (N = 32,452) and 2009–2012 NYC Stop, Question, and Frisk (N = 34)
TABLE 5 The effects of invasive police encounters on professionally diagnosed diabetes, average and race-specific effects: 2009–2012 NYC Community Health Survey (N = 32,452) and 2009–2012 NYC Stop, Question, and Frisk (N = 34)
TABLE 6 The effects of invasive police encounters on professionally diagnosed high blood pressure, average and race-specific effects: 2009–2012 NYC Community Health Survey (N = 32,452) and 2009–2012 NYC Stop, Question, and Frisk (N = 34)

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Sewell, A.A., Jefferson, K.A. Collateral Damage: The Health Effects of Invasive Police Encounters in New York City. J Urban Health 93, 42–67 (2016).

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  • Health
  • Police
  • Neighborhoods
  • New York City
  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Health disparities