Online Program

Disparities in Legal Intervention Deaths

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rebecca Levin, MPH, Strengthening Chicago’s Youth, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Kelli Day, BA, Strengthening Chicago's Youth, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Edward Boone, Strengthening Chicago's Youth (SCY), Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Vanessa Westley, Chicago Police Department, Chicago, IL
Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, Chicago, IL
Background: Significant public concern has been raised about police-involved deaths, and public perceptions of the issue vary drastically. Public health data can help examine the issue and inform policy improvements.

Methods: Using vital statistics data available through CDC’s WISQARS, we examined deaths due to “legal intervention” from 1999-2013. State-specific death rates per 100,000 were determined for non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites. The ratio of death rate for blacks to death rate for whites was calculated to indicate how many disproportionately more blacks than whites die due to legal intervention. States were excluded if either race had 20 or fewer legal intervention deaths.

Results: From 1999-2013, there were 6338 deaths due to legal intervention in the US. Nationally the rate of legal intervention deaths among blacks was 2.73 times higher than the rate among whites, ranging from 1.25 times higher in Louisiana to 8.50 times higher in Massachusetts. All states with lower ratios than the national ratio were in the South. The states with the highest ratios were in the Northeast and Midwest.

Conclusions: Significant disparities exist in the rates at which blacks and whites die from legal intervention. Further research is needed to understand the circumstances surrounding these deaths. In the meantime, police departments can acknowledge this disparity and take steps to improve it. The Chicago Police Department is working to improve relations with community residents through efforts such as extensive procedural justice training and partnering with the YMCA on the “Bridging the Divide” program.

Learning Areas:

Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe national vital statistics data regarding the disparities in the rates at which blacks and whites die from legal intervention.

Keyword(s): Police Brutality, Social Justice

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Strategic Director of the Injury Prevention and Research Center at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. I oversaw formation of and now direct the Strengthening Chicago’s Youth (SCY) violence prevention collaborative, which is building capacity among stakeholders--including researchers, police and community partners--in multiple sectors to connect, collaborate and mobilize around a public health approach to violence prevention.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.