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Policing as a Social Determinant of Health: The Impact of

Drug Enforcement on Prenatal Care Utilization in Urban Communities

As a scholar interested in understanding the concept of "democratic policing," I have devoted substantial intellectual energy into thinking and writing about what a true "consent" model of policing might look like. Within such a paradigm, police would integrate with communities in ways that enhanced the quality of life for all people who lived there. Police actions would be developed in conjunction with community members, not simply imposed on them. 

 

Consider this: Without the police in your neighborhood, your life chances are X. Whatever X might be -- think of it as a numeric value. And when the police enter your neighborhood, your life chances change to Y. Under a legitimate system of democratic policing, Y should never be lower than X. At the very least -- and I mean, the very least -- X and Y should be equal. Ideally, however, Y would be greater than X. But unfortunately, that's not always what we see. Hence, my collaboration with Dr. Anne-Marie O'Brien of The George Washington University School of Nursing that examined the extent to which neighborhood drug enforcement led to decreases in prenatal care initiation and utilization among pregnant women in Washington, DC. In other words, we studied how an accepted police practice may have decreased the life chances of people across some communities in a major urban setting. 

 

Here's What We Found:

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"Research...shows that police coercion can negatively impact public health behaviors, such as the decision to not seek healthcare..." (Kane & O'Brien, 2018: 2. Emphasis in original)