In December of 2015, Dr. Nancy Krieger, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, published a paper, “Police Killings and Police Death Are Public Health Data and Can be Counted.” In it Dr. Krieger argues that one of the impacts of police violence is “…the toll taken on family members and the communities, both for persons killed by the police and for police killed in the line of duty.” Krieger goes on to state, “A core premise of our proposal is that mortality and morbidity due to police violence is a matter of public health, not just criminal justice.” Dr. Krieger is not alone in coming to this conclusion. There is a growing consensus in the public health community that police-related deaths constitute a public health crisis.
The American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the Student National Medical Association, and the American Public Health Association have all made similar findings. We can look at historical examples like malaria, smoking, Influenza, HIV, domestic violence, and infant mortality to demonstrate that when a crisis has been addressed in the public health arena there have always been significant measurable improvements within years.
Government agencies, citizens, community organizations, and politicians have historically been known to align and rally behind public health crises and devote appropriate resources and attention to solving the problem. We must declare the problem of police killings a public health national emergency. Then the public health world will be able to help institute solutions.