Not so deadly police encounters still land thousands in the ER a year

Police and security guards sent over 400,000 people to the emergency room since 2015, your Friday long read from The Marshall Project

We go to The Marshall Project for this week’s long read by Simone Weichselbaum, Lisa Riordan Seville, Emily Siegel, Joseph Neff, and Abbie VanSickle, read the whole article “Violent Encounters With Police Send Thousands of People to the ER Every Year.” We include key excerpts below to convince you it’s worth your time.

Public attention often focused on those who are killed by officers; stories of people who survive police brutality are lesser known

“Researchers point out that only a tiny portion of arrests involve force. But when police do use force, more than half the incidents ended with a suspect or bystander getting hurt, according to a 2020 analysis. It’s unclear how serious the harm is. “We need better data on injury severity,” said Matthew Hickman, a professor at Seattle University and one of the study’s author.”

“Many experts agree that injuries at the hands of cops remain underreported.”

“This data depends on the discretion of police, who get to decide who is worthy or unworthy of an ambulance,” said Nicole Gonzalez Van Cleve, an associate professor of sociology at Brown University, who has researched the Chicago Police Department. “It is absolutely an undercount.”


“Only in a place like San Jose, which requires officers to report injuries and encourages them to take people they’ve wounded to the hospital, do we have a glimpse of what the national scale of the issue might be. The city, with just over a million residents in the heart of Silicon Valley, took the rare step of tracking injuries and hospitalizations as part of a years-long effort to reduce violent interactions between residents and officers, after long-standing complaints that officers were beating people up during arrests.”

“Most of the ER visits involved officers using their hands on people, our analysis found. “Control holds” – twisting arms or holding people down – played a role in 60% of the cases. Almost 20% of people who went to the ER were shot with stun guns, and 10% were hit with an “impact weapon” such as a baton.”

“In those four years, city data shows, encounters with San Jose police left 72 people “seriously injured,” which included broken bones, dog bites and internal injuries. Nine more people died, all from gunshot wounds.”

Bottom Line

“Department officials say they have encouraged officer to use weapons less often. In 2015, “impact weapons” were involved in 19% of use-of-force incidents, the Police Strategies report shows. By 2019, that had dropped to 11%. But officers were wrestling more often with people they were trying to arrest. Two-thirds of all use-of-force incidents in 2019 led to injuries, a rate the report described as “above average.” The majority of people ended up in the ER.

Critics seeking police reform want more than detailed statistics.

‘I don’t think there’s any pats on the back or gold starts given out for chronicling their overuse of force and injuries on civilians,” said Raj Jayadev, founder of the criminal justice watchdog group Silicon Valley De-Bug. ‘The end of the story isn’t, ‘Here are all the people we’ve killed’ or ‘Here are all the people we’ve maimed.’ The Point is to stop it.’”

Read the whole article here.

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