Negative Police Encounters and Police Avoidance as Pathways to Depressive Symptoms Among US Black Men, 2015–2016 [2020]

Objectives. To examine negative police encounters and police avoidance as mediators of incarceration history and depressive symptoms among US Black men and to assess the role of unemployment as a moderator of these associations.

Methods. Data were derived from the quantitative phase of Menhood, a 2015–2016 study based in Washington, DC. Participants were 891 Black men, 18 to 44 years of age, who completed computer surveys. We used moderated mediation to test the study’s conceptual model.

Results. The results showed significant indirect effects of incarceration history on depressive symptoms via negative police encounters and police avoidance. Unemployment moderated the indirect effect via police avoidance. Participants with a history of incarceration who were unemployed reported significantly higher police avoidance and, in turn, higher depressive symptoms. Moderation of unemployment on the indirect effect via negative police encounters was not significant.

Conclusions. There is a critical need to broaden research on the health impact of mass incarceration to include other aspects of criminal justice involvement (e.g., negative police encounters and police avoidance) that negatively affect Black men’s mental health.

Lisa Bowleg PhD, MA, Ana Maria del Río-González PhD, MA, MS, Mary Mbaba MPH, Cheriko A. Boone MSW, MPH, and Sidney L. Holt MA
American Journal of Public Health, January 2020