Civic Engagement Lunch Talk — “Utilizing Social Advocacy Research to Explore the Effects of Policing on Community Health”

Date / Time

March 6, 2024

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm


Lunch boxes will be available — please RSVP to share dietary restrictions.

Alana Gunn, assistant professor of criminology, law and justice, presents her research on “Utilizing Social Advocacy Research to Explore the Effects of Policing on Community Health.”

Experiences of hyper-surveillance impact the health of underserved communities and exacerbate health disparities. In particular, exposure to neighborhood strains, such as fear of police encounters and arrests contribute to health illnesses such as traumatic stress and anxiety.

Given the link between health and community-level surveillance, Gunn and her co-principal investigators engaged in a participatory research study to explore how communities make sense of their police encounters. They conducted a series of focus groups, using photovoice, with 20 justice-impacted individuals examining their views about their community, families, interactions with police and how this shapes their health. Findings reveal that communities experience tensions between needing protection while fearing police surveillance and threat. Secondly, participants felt stigmatization, which further heightened anxiety. Additionally, social disorganization was seen as a major driver of neighborhood violence, as well as residents’ sense of fear and stress.

Further public health and criminological research can illuminate the complexities of living in highly surveilled communities and managing one’s health. Moreover, increased access to mental health services can support residents’ exposure to systematic stress and criminalization due to threats of hyper-policing and other community strains.

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