Black people face the greatest risk of receiving an injury during an encounter with California law enforcement, according to a new study.
The study was prompted when the Journal of the American Medical Association, which produced the paper, found that government databases that track deaths caused by police “all have significant and well-known methodological problems” such as voluntary reporting requirements or the failure to mention police involvement in homicides.
While there are independent sources that track fatal police shootings, such as The Guardian’s “The Counted” project, non-lethal injuries aren’t included, according to the study.
To find a way to track those law enforcement-caused injuries, JAMA researchers studied more than 92,000 “legal intervention injuries” experienced by California males 14 to 64 years old between Jan. 1, 2005 to Sept. 30, 2015.
“Legal intervention injuries” were defined in the study as “injuries inflicted by the police or other law-enforcing agents in the course of suppressing disturbances, maintaining order, arresting or attempting to arrest offenders or other legal action.”
Researchers used California because the state “has a central repository for these data and requires all hospitals to collect patient race or ethnicity,” according to the study.
The study found that “compared with their representation in the population, injuries were disproportionately high among younger age groups, black individuals, and Hispanic individuals,” according to the paper. “Black individuals were consistently at greatest risk of legal intervention injury per capita, although rates per arrest were broadly similar across race and ethnicity.”
Men ages 25 to 34 had nearly 32 percent of the injuries, but made up just 21 percent of the population. Black men made up nearly 19 percent of total injuries, but were just 7 percent of the population. Hispanic men had 39 percent of injuries and made up 37 percent of the population.
“Our findings suggest disparities in the rate of injury from legal intervention for different racial groups but do not identify the cause,” the study reported.
The report also did not determine whether injuries caused by law enforcement qualified as excessive force, a term the study dubbed subjective.
Despite that, the study determined that “black individuals have much higher rates of injury per population than other groups, contributing to concerns about racial disparities in the police use of force,” the study found. “Our results indicate that much of the difference can be attributed to higher arrest rates for black individuals and therefore greater exposure to legal intervention.”
Despite the increased risk of injury experienced by black people, the study found that law enforcement-caused injuries, and injuries involving firearms particularly, decreased over the 10-year period that was examined.
The study concluded that decline could be attributed to evolving police procedures requiring an emergency room visit “following use of force incidents.” It might also reflect jail policies requiring examination prior to booking.
“Increasing use of tasers might have contributed to the corresponding decrease in firearm-related injuries,” the study found.