“Stop, Question, and Frisk”: The Health Effects of Police-Citizen Encounters

In recent decades, the “broken windows” approach to policing has led several large U.S. cities to employ the proactive policing program known as “Stop, Question, and Frisk” (SQF). The New York City Police Department (NYPD) made over 5 million such stops between 2002 and 2016.

At this time, there is little known about the health effects of these kinds of programs. To fill this gap, the research team will use millions of observations of police-citizen encounters contained in the NYPD’s SQF database from 2008-present, and Medicaid patient claims from 2008-present, to assess the effect of police encounters on individual health outcomes. To causally identify this effect, the team will exploit an unanticipated change to the NYPD’s protocol for making pedestrian stops. On March 5, 2013, the NYPD suddenly mandated that officers provide thorough narratives justifying the reasons for pedestrian stops. In addition, officers were required to photocopy and submit these narrative descriptions to supervisors after each shift. Following this procedural reform, the number of stops abruptly decreased and the rate of stops producing evidence of suspected crime increased.

The team will map pedestrian stops to the neighborhoods surrounding Medicaid recipients’ home addresses to see whether Medicaid claims for trauma and anxiety to decrease after the NYPD’s procedural reform reduced the incidence of pedestrian stops.