Funded, in part, by the Penn Injury Science Center and the Centers for Disease Control (R49CE002474) and the National Institute of Nursing Research (F31 NR0113599).
Healthcare providers and law enforcement officers have interrelated mandates when responding to traumatic injuries: to protect and treat injured people, and to maintain public safety. This overlap can bring police into clinical settings that often lack explicit policies to guide where, when, and how injured patients, clinicians and police interact. In our interdisciplinary study, injured African American patients identified their perceptions of overlap between healthcare and law enforcement activities and its impact on their recovery process. Some patients felt that police were acting in their interest by offering security and support, and expediting hospital transport. Others experienced police questioning in the hospital, as stressful and in conflict with their medical needs. These findings suggest that intersections between law enforcement and trauma care activities are varied, but carry the potential to affect outcomes and alter trust in the health care system. We are working to inform communities, trauma centers, and professional societies on ways to enact policies that standardize law enforcement access in trauma centers and balance patients’ health, privacy, and legal rights with public safety needs.