It is known that police sometimes harm civilians in the course of carrying out their duty. However, a study of Illinois hospitalizations over the past decade shows some unsettling trends in just how badly people can be hurt during clashes with police as opposed to when they get into fights with other civilians.
From the available data, the researchers from the University of Illinois identified 836 civilians who were admitted to the hospital or treated in the emergency rooms between 2000 and 2009. These findings were then compared to another pool of 836 people of a similar age and sex distribution who received hospital treatment in the same period due to physical clashes with other civilians.
Although the severity of injuries suffered by the two groups was comparable, looking at the nature of the injuries shows some disturbing trends. Civilians injured by law enforcement were 2.5 times more likely to need extended care following discharge (20% versus eight percent), which suggests that their injuries either created complications or were more debilitating even if they weren’t any more dangerous. Additionally, law enforcement clashes were twice as likely to result in back or spinal injuries (7.4% versus 3.3%). This last finding is especially concerning since back and spinal injuries tend to indicate that the person was lying on the ground face-down when the injury was taken. It could also indicate that the person was slammed into a hard surface, which also does not have good implications.
There was also a disproportionate number of people injured by law enforcement who had paralytic disorders (3.9% versus 1.7%). These would be individuals who were not physically capable of complying with law enforcement demands such as to lie on the ground or raise their hands. However, the study does not offer insight into what injuries those with paralytic disorders were treated for, making further deduction on the matter unlikely.
Another concern is that only 10% of those injured by law enforcement were sent to jail following discharge from the hospital.
One of the weaknesses in the study is that it cannot determine the circumstances under which the injuries took place, only that they were inflicted by law enforcement. This makes identifying incidents of excessive or unjustified force difficult and limits how the findings can be used. What the study does show is that the rate of injuries inflicted by law enforcement is consistent with findings made by the CDC and other organizations as well as offer insights into which forms of injury such an interaction is likely to produce.
Source for Today’s Article:
Holloway-Beth, A., et al., “Risk factors associated with legal interventions,” Injury Epidemiology, 2016; 3:2, doi: 10.1186/s40621-016-0067-6.