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Mandatory Reporting Requirements for Emergency Room Physicians for Suspected Police Brutality or the Use of Excessive Force by Law Enforcement

WHEREAS, the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities is often strained due to mistrust, a long documented history of abuse by law enforcement, the use of racial profiling and the excessive use of force; and

WHEREAS, many defendants and citizens have complained about intimidation, abusive practices, and the use of excessive force following their interaction with law enforcement and have ended up having emergency room visits following those contacts; and

WHEREAS, emergency room physicians are often the first to receive defendants or citizens from law enforcement for medical services; and

WHEREAS, in 2009, five emergency care experts reported results of a survey of more than 300 ER physicians, in which virtually all said they "believed excessive use of force [by police] actually occurs" and roughly 98% said they had "managed patients with suspected excessive use of force." Their study was reported fully in the Emergency Medical Journal and was synopsized by Force Science News; and

WHEREAS, two physicians from this research team (Dr. H. Range Hutson of Harvard and Dr. Jared Strate of the University of Washington) joined two PhDs from the criminology department of the University of South Carolina (Hayden Smith and Geoffrey Alpert) in publishing an editorial in the Annals of Emergency Medicine. This piece reprised the findings of the original study and urged that ER physicians report their "concerns" about "police abuse" to police department Internal Affairs offices and make note of them in separate reports "not included in the case notes." They stated that, "Although physicians are required to report child abuse, gunshot wounds, and stab wounds, there are no guidelines for them to report alternative expressions of violence, such as the perceived use of excessive force by police officers"; and

WHEREAS, in many instances physicians already have a duty to report suspected child abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence to law enforcement when patients are seen in the hospital, clinics and emergency rooms; and

WHEREAS, requiring health care professionals to report the use of police brutality or excessive force is not an additional burden to the other mandatory requirements.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People supports the mandatory requirement of physicians having reasonable cause to suspect that any person has been subjected to physical abuse induced by excessive force shall be mandated to report or cause a report to be made to the appropriate investigative agency; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP advocate for appropriate training and policies for health care professionals on the management of cases where law enforcement excessive use of force is suspected; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the NAACP collaborate with the National Medical Association and the American Medical Association on this issue; and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP support nationwide legislation and policies to urge all states to have a mandatory requirement for health care professionals to report suspected police brutality and the use of excessive force by law enforcement when brought into a medical facility for treatment to the Department of Justice or internal affairs investigators.