“Local public health departments stand ready to play a lead role in efforts to address police violence.”
By Lori Tremmel Freeman, Chief Executive Officer
Washington, DC, April 21, 2021 —The verdict in the George Floyd murder trial is one step forward in holding police accountable for violent actions against Black people in this country. But the killings of Daunte Wright and Adam Toledo demonstrate that as a nation, we are still far away from justice and much work remains to get there.
Rage, fear, anger, sadness, resignation – these are some of the many feelings experienced from the daily violence against Black people. The legacy of violence against Black Americans extends deep into the history of this country and has cost countless lives. And its impacts are felt and compounded daily. This everyday violence, toxic stress, and demoralization cuts to the heart of how unevenly justice is meted out in the United States as a result of entrenched, unequal power structures and a lack of accountability that keep these unjust systems firmly in place, to the detriment of all of society.
This violence is a public health issue deeply rooted in our nation’s legacy of systemic racial, economic, and social oppression and injustice.
Local public health departments stand ready to play a lead role in efforts to address police violence. Violence or the threat of violence—driven by on-going, systematic racism—creates a toxic stress that impacts the health of children, families, and communities. Public health departments also have the authority to effectively use data to highlight the impact of police violence and the legacy that drives it. They can create bridges to communities of color and provide support for processes that focus on reconciliation and healing. They also have access connections with law enforcement to create cultural change, one community at a time.
In pursuit of a more just and equitable future for all people, NACCHO supports:
- Leading efforts to build ties between local government and communities focusing on health equity to achieve community centered solutions.
- Communicating how the anticipation and long-term effects of violence and daily intimidation increase toxic stress that severely harms health of families and whole communities.
- Eliminating discriminatory policing practices, such as racial profiling and stop-and-frisk, which disproportionately target Black people and communities.
- Changing laws that lead to confrontation and arrests for minor infractions, eliminating the criminalization of inconsequential or victimless behavior.
- Releasing clear and accurate data on policing including arrests, use of force, and decertification of law enforcement.
- Continuing research on the impact of police violence on Black communities and in non-Black communities of color.
- Holding police accountable for discriminatory actions and discriminatory use of force.
The work involves us all. NACCHO calls on ourselves, our members, our partners, and people across this nation to not only acknowledge but confront the racial and economic oppression that has culminated in the unrest we see today. Local health departments should work to change the public narrative from focusing on individual incidents and occurrences to discussing and addressing the legacy of racial, economic, and social oppression and injustices faced by Black communities.
For more information, please see NACCHO’s policy statements:
- Police Violence and Racism
- Mass Incarceration and Structural Racism
- Health Equity and Social Justice
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The National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) represents the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health departments. These city, county, metropolitan, district, and tribal departments work every day to protect and promote health and well-being for all people in their communities. For more information about NACCHO, please visit www.naccho.org.