March 9, 2022, 9:20 a.m. News Staff — During the virtual Congress of Delegates meeting in October 2020, delegates at the Reference Committee on Health of the Public and Science hearing adopted a substitute resolution that directed the Academy to develop an official position paper on policing standards.
That resolution led the AAFP Board of Directors in December 2021 to formally approve a position paper on the topic, as well as a related policy on trauma-informed care, both of which are now available on AAFP.org.
“Family physicians recognize that negative interactions with police can have detrimental effects on the physical and mental health of the communities that they serve, and that this is even greater in BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) communities,” said Kisha Davis, M.D., M.P.H., a family physician in Gaithersburg, Md., and a member of the Academy’s Commission on Federal and State Policy, who assisted in developing the position paper. “Policing standards are one facet of public health infrastructure that promotes health, wellness and safety, and I applaud the development of recommended standards for policing.”
The position paper lays out the Academy’s reasoning for developing a position on policing standards by explaining that the AAFP’s mission, among other things, is to “improve the health of patients, families and communities by advancing family medicine.”
“We can’t achieve our mission when current standards of policing do not adequately prioritize individual and community health; when the act of policing leads to death or injury of unarmed citizens; and when disparate harms caused by inadequate police training and discriminatory policing practices lead to frayed community bonds and entrenched mistrust,” the paper states.
The position paper urges police and law enforcement agencies to create and implement policies and procedures that reduce the risk of public harm, with a particular focus on BIPOC and other marginalized populations. It also suggests ways that members can take action at the physician, practice, community, state and national levels.
In addition, the position paper addresses and provides detailed information on a number of topics that could affect policing standards and practices, including:
“Acknowledging the mental and physical health impact that BIPOC and marginalized communities face in some police interactions and recommending standards to reduce it moves us beyond just recognizing racism as a public health crisis by working to eliminate it,” Davis said.
The trauma-informed care policy, meanwhile, recognizes that exposure to trauma such as systemic racism or intimate partner violence can have serious and long-lasting effects on a person’s physical and mental well-being. It defines trauma-informed care as “a whole-person approach to health care that acknowledges the impact of trauma on health” and includes several principles of care for clinicians.
The policy also suggests that family physicians apply trauma-informed practices in all patient interactions, urges AAFP members to understand and incorporate trauma-informed care into clinical practices, and directs medical schools and residency programs to include instruction in trauma-informed care practices.