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Good Cop -- Bad Cop: Police Violence and the Child’s Mind

15 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2015  

Andrea Dennis

University of Georgia School of Law

Date Written: December 21, 2015


Police violence against citizens lately has gripped the nation’s attention because of recent cases in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; Cleveland, Ohio; Baltimore, Maryland; and elsewhere. Children in those communities and nationwide have been directly and indirectly exposed to these well-publicized incidences of police killings and the aftermath of those killings.

Exposure to police violence may cause children physical, cognitive, emotional, and social trauma. Moreover, the exposure may negatively influence children’s mindsets regarding the criminal justice system and police.

Undoubtedly, these events of late are not the first and only instances in which children have been exposed to physically aggressive and violent law enforcement action. And they are unlikely to be the last instances in which youth will be subjected to police violence. They are, however, a call for action.

Federal law enforcement officials already devote significant resources to the widespread problem of children’s exposure to violence. However, their efforts have been impoverished because they have failed to account for police violence and the negative impacts stemming from that violence. To thoroughly tackle the problem of children’s exposure to violence, officials addressing the issue should collaborate with others focusing on reform of police-citizen interactions. Their concerted effort must then prioritize data collection respecting, and research regarding, the impact of police violence on children from infancy through late adolescence. Additionally, their work must generate evidence-based programming sensitive to youths’ developing perspectives on the legal system and legal actors.

Keywords: Defending Childhood Initiative, violence, children, exposure, law enforcement, police, Strategies for Youth, legal socialization

JEL Classification: K14, K42

Suggested Citation

Dennis, Andrea, Good Cop -- Bad Cop: Police Violence and the Child’s Mind (December 21, 2015). 58 Howard Law Journal 811 (2015); UGA Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2015-39. Available at SSRN:

Andrea Dennis (Contact Author)

University of Georgia School of Law ( email )

225 Herty Drive
Athens, GA 30602
United States
706-542-3130 (Phone)

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