Mental Health Report: Effects of Police Brutality on Mental Health in Black Communities

Police violence is an ongoing problem in the United States. It describes the police’s use of excessive and unwarranted force that often results in death or serious bodily injury. Black people are more likely to be killed by the police than any other demographic and are killed at higher rates.

It is important to be aware that police violence is not about crime, but rather the racial profiling and systemic racism that has plagued this country since its birth. Police violence also has negative psychological effects on the communities that experience it—particularly the Black community—as this report details.

The families of individuals that police violence affects as well as the victims of police brutality are often forgotten in conversations regarding police accountability and redress. No government-funded programs exist to provide mental health support to the victims of police brutality and the family members of those affected by police violence.

Presently, in most states, crime victims and their family members can apply for government assistance to pay for funeral costs, counseling, medical fees, or other crime-related expenses. However, most victims of police violence do not qualify for these victim compensation funds.

Police departments do not issue families or individuals affected by police violence the victimhood certification required by most states’ victim compensation boards. Further, state boards do not provide compensation to individuals in situations where police officers are suspected of being involved in a crime where they sustained bodily harm or were killed, and this is often the reality for victims of police violence.

The unfortunate truth is that when an officer is involved in a shooting or any sort of brutality there are no publicly funded services available to the family members of the victim.

To address this shortcoming and demonstrate the need for services in this area, this report provides a detailed overview of the costs of police violence on the mental health of the Black community. It also highlights several community-based organizations that are already doing work in this area as examples of the types of services that could be funded and discusses a piece of state legislation that could serve as just one initial step in providing the support necessary to begin to address this problem.

Read Our Letter to the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner