Police–Community Relations, Excessive Force, and Community Stress: Evidence From a Community Survey

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Objective: Concerns about excessive police force are an understudied but real emotional health problem facing residents of high-crime communities. Theoretical perspectives on stressful life events and general strain provide frameworks for understanding health implications of police violence. This manuscript builds upon prior research to assess how perceptions of police–community relations and use of excessive force by the police impact self-reported stress, overall health, and body mass index (BMI) as an indicator of general physical health. Method: The present study analyzed survey data from 329 respondents in a high-crime, high drug-activity area to examine how perceptions of the police, and their use of force, impact stress and overall health. Results: Although more positively rated police–community relations were not associated with self-rated stress, perceptions that excessive police force was a big problem were associated with higher reported stress. The association between excessive force perceptions and self-reported stress was most prominent for women, persons not currently employed, non-Hispanic, and Black residents. Higher reported community cohesion, by contrast, was associated with better health outcomes. Conclusion: Public health outreach in the aftermath of police use of force incidents may be helpful in managing the trauma and fears that residents carry around excessive police violence. Additionally, the experiencing of stressful life events including police use of force may be recorded by clinicians as a risk factor for future health difficulties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)201-210
Number of pages10
JournalPsychology of Violence
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology


  • Excessive force
  • Health
  • Police–community relations
  • Safety
  • Stress


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