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Racial Differences in Hospital Evaluation After the Use of Force by Police: a Tale of Two Cities

Abstract

Objective

To determine whether racial or sex bias or the number of officers influences the chances of reported injury or hospital evaluation after the use of less than lethal force by law enforcement.

Methods

Retrospective cohort study of 12,326 incidents of less than lethal force in Indianapolis, Indiana (2014–2018), and Wichita, Kansas (2008–2018).

Results

Injuries to non-White persons are under-reported (Indianapolis Pr ≤ 0.003; Wichita Pr ≤ 0.000) and non-White persons are less likely to be referred for hospital evaluation after the use of force (Indianapolis OR 0.57, CI 0.45–0.72, Wichita OR 0.66, CI 0.48–0.92). In Indianapolis, the presence of more than one officer significantly reduced the odds of hospitalization after both injury and serious injury (OR 0.48, CI 0.36–0.64 for injury, OR 0.22, CI 0.12–0.39 for serious injury). For both cities, an estimated 25% more non-White persons who were subject to the use of force should have been evaluated in a hospital than actually were.

Conclusions

Significant racial disparities exist in the reporting of injuries and in the access to care after the use of force by law enforcement.

Implications

Policies, procedures, and training need to be amended to correct the disparities in access to care after the use of force. Access to sequestered law enforcement data is imperative to assess the extent of these disparities nationwide.

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Correspondence to Stuart Lewis.

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Lewis, S., Bueno de Mesquita, B. Racial Differences in Hospital Evaluation After the Use of Force by Police: a Tale of Two Cities. J. Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities 7, 1178–1187 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40615-020-00742-6

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Keywords

  • Use of force
  • Policing
  • Health disparities
  • Access to care