If you treat someone like a criminal, he’s more likely to act like one later in life and commit a crime.
That’s among the findings of a New York University study that looked at the impact of “proactive policing” policies—initiatives like stop-and-frisk and police stops that have cops “engaging” with those most likely to be accused of being up to no good—on black and brown boys.
For over two years, the study looked at 637 high-school-aged black, Latino and mixed-race boys in “high-intensity policing areas,” or areas where police were charged with interacting with “people most likely to be accused of crimes,” Pacific Standard reports.
According to NYU, the study’s author, Juan Del Toro, chose to focus on boys of color due to statistics showing they are most likely to be subjected to such police action. He noted the numbers in New York City “where in 2016, more than 90 percent of people subjected to police stops were male – out of those, 52 percent black, 29 percent Latino, 10 percent white. Forty-seven percent were juveniles aged 14-24.”
And based on the boys’ own self-reported accounts of their experiences with police and their subsequent actions, the study found, as Pacific Standard explained:
... that those who had experienced such a face-to-face encounter with the police subsequently engaged in more acts of juvenile delinquency, such as theft and vandalism, than those who had not.
This pattern—based on the kids’ self-reports—was true even for boys who had rarely participated in delinquent behavior before the stop. The study, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that this behavior may be a result of the mental and emotional distress such encounters can create.
And it’s the mental toll dealings with police take on young black and brown men that may be the worst outcome of such policing policies, Del Toro said.
“Our findings indicate that the single most common proactive policing strategy – directing officers to make contact with individual boys and young men in ‘high crime’ areas – may impose a terrible cost on black and Latino youth across the country,” Del Toro said. “Police stops are associated with harmful outcomes including subsequent delinquent behavior and psychological distress that may be even more harmful when they occur earlier in boys’ lives.”