Police Contact and Mental Health

59 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2018 Last revised: 6 Jan 2018

See all articles by Amanda Geller

Amanda Geller

NYU Department of Sociology

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School

Tom Tyler

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: December 1, 2017


Although an effective police presence is widely regarded as critical to public safety, less is known about the effects of police practices on mental health and community wellbeing. Adolescents and young adults in specific neighborhoods of urban areas are likely to experience assertive contemporary police practices. This study goes beyond research on policing effects on legal socialization to assess the effects of police contact on the mental health of those stopped by the police. We collected and analyzed data in a two wave survey of young men in New York City (N=717) clustered in the neighborhoods with the highest rates of involuntary person-police contact. We focus on two indicia of mental health, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, and assess their association with two dimensions of experience with the police: the quantity and intensity of police contact. Panel regression models indicate that, controlling for past police contact and mental health, recent police contact – specifically the extent of police intrusion in a recent “critical” stop – is associated with increased levels of anxiety symptoms, and both quantity and intensity of recent stop experience are significantly associated with increased PTSD symptoms. Additional analyses suggest that particular types of intrusion respondents experience may be a stronger determinant of subsequent health than the quantity of stops reported.

Keywords: police, mental health, policing, legal socialization, police contact, New York City

Suggested Citation

Geller, Amanda and Fagan, Jeffrey and Tyler, Tom, Police Contact and Mental Health (December 1, 2017). Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 14-571. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3096076

Amanda Geller (Contact Author)

NYU Department of Sociology ( email )

295 Lafayette St.
4th Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States
212-992-8762 (Phone)

Jeffrey Fagan

Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
212-854-2624 (Phone)
212-854-7946 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Jeffrey_Fagan

Tom Tyler

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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