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Impact of law enforcement-related deaths of unarmed black New Yorkers on emergency department rates, New York 2013–2016
  1. Sze Yan Liu1,2,
  2. Sungwoo Lim2,
  3. L Hannah Gould2
  1. 1 Department of Public Health, Montclair State University, Montclair, New Jersey, USA
  2. 2 Division of Epidemiology, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Long Island City, New York, USA
  1. Correspondence to Sze Yan Liu, Department of Public Health, Montclair State University, Montclair, NJ, USA; lius{at}


Background Law enforcement-related deaths of unarmed black Americans may lead black communities to distrust public institutions. Our study quantifies the impact of law enforcement-related deaths of black New York residents on the use of hospital emergency departments (ED) during 2013–2016.

Methods We used regression discontinuity models stratified by race and time period (2013–2015 and 2015–2016) to estimate the impact of law enforcement-related deaths on ED rates. Dates of deaths and media reports were from the Mapping Police Violence database. We calculated the daily overall and condition-specific ED visit rates from the New York’s Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System.

Results There were 14 law enforcement-related deaths of unarmed black New York residents from 2013 to 2016. In 2013–2014, the ED rate among black New Yorkers decreased by 7.7 visits per 100 000 black New Yorkers (5% less than the average ED rate) using the date of media report as the cut-off with a 2-week exposure window. No changes in ED rates were noted for black New Yorkers in 2015–2016 or for white New Yorkers in either time period. Models using the date of death followed a similar pattern.

Conclusion The decrease in ED rates among black New Yorkers immediately following media reports of law enforcement-related deaths involving unarmed black New Yorkers during 2013–2014 may represent potentially harmful delays in healthcare. Reforms implemented during 2015–2016 might have modified the impact of these deaths. Further investigation into the population health impacts of law enforcement-related deaths is needed.

  • Health services
  • Policy
  • Access to hlth care

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  • Contributors The authors made the following contributions: SYL designed the study, analysed data, interpreted the results and wrote the paper. SL contributed analytic tools, interpreted results and wrote the paper. LHG interpreted results and wrote the paper. All authors contributed to the review and editing of drafts of the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available.

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.