Why Police Kill Black Males with Impunity: Applying Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCRP) to Address the Determinants of Policing Behaviors and "Justifiable" Homicides in the USA

J Urban Health. 2016 Apr;93 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):122-40. doi: 10.1007/s11524-015-0005-x.


Widespread awareness of the recent deaths of several black males at the hands of police has revealed an unaddressed public health challenge-determining the root causes of excessive use of force by police applied to black males that may result in "justifiable homicides." The criminalization of black males has a long history in the USA, which has resulted in an increase in policing behaviors by legal authorities and created inequitable life chances for black males. Currently, the discipline of public health has not applied an intersectional approach that investigates the intersection of race and gender to understanding police behaviors that lead to "justifiable homicides" for black males. This article applies the core tenets and processes of Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCRP) to develop a framework that can improve research and interventions to address the disparities observed in recent trend analyses of "justifiable homicides." Accordingly, we use PHCRP to offer an alternative framework on the social, legal, and health implications of violence-related incidents. We aim to move the literature in this area forward to help scholars, policymakers, and activists build the capacity of communities to address the excessive use of force by police to reduce mortality rates from "justifiable homicides."

Keywords: #BlackLivesMatter; Black men’s health; Critical race theory; Health inequalities; Intersectionality; Police brutality; Public Health Critical Race Praxis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American*
  • Homicide
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement / methods*
  • Male
  • Police*
  • Psychology, Social
  • Public Health
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • Urban Health
  • Violence / ethnology*