“We (still) charge genocide”: A systematic review and synthesis of the direct and indirect health consequences of police violence in the United States

Rahwa Haile, Tawandra Rowell-Cunsolo, Marie-Fatima Hyacinthe, Sirry Alang 

SUNY Old Westbury, Department of Public Health, Old Westbury, NY, USA
University of Wisconsin, Sandra Rosenbaum School of Social Work, Madison, WI, USA
Yale University, School of Public Health, New Haven, CT, USA
University of Pittsburgh, Department of Health and Human Development, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Received 1 July 2022, Revised 8 February 2023, Accepted 14 February 2023, Available online 17 February 2023, Version of Record 28 February 2023.


  • Black people in the US are more likely than whites to experience police violence.
  • Direct exposure to police violence increases risk of adverse health outcomes.
  • Police violence may operate indirectly, producing harms beyond direct victims.


Building on historical and contemporary efforts to eliminate police and other forms of state violence, and on the understanding that police violence is a social determinant of health, we conducted a systematic review in which we synthesize the existing literature around 1) racial disparities in police violence; 2) health impacts of direct exposure to police violence; and 3) health impacts of indirect exposure to police violence. We screened 336 studies and excluded 246, due to not meeting our inclusion criteria. Forty-eight additional studies were excluded during the full text review, resulting in a study sample size of 42 studies. Our review showed that Black people in the US are far more likely than white people to experience a range of forms of police violence: from fatal and nonfatal shootings, to assault and psychological violence. Exposure to police violence increases risk of multiple adverse health outcomes. Moreover, police violence may operate as a vicarious and ecological exposure, producing consequences beyond those directly assaulted. In order to successfully eliminate police violence, scholars must work in alignment with social justice movements.