Aug. 5, 2021
CWU Professor Publishes Article on Police Homicide in Journal of Trauma and Acute Care
Systemic discrimination toward people of color in policing and a lack of oversight on police can have a detrimental impact on the health of young people of color, according to new research published by Charles Reasons, a Central Washington University professor of Law and Justice.
In an article titled, “Police Homicide: Race and Ethnicity” in the May 2021 issue of Journal of Trauma and Acute Care, Reasons, in collaboration with several other authors, writes about how such factors can have a stress-based impact on the health of young members of those communities. The other authors of the article are CWU Law and Justice Lecturer Christine Henderson, CWU Librarian Aimee Quinn, former police officer John Vinson, and CWU Law and Justice students Veronica Sala and Brittney Warf.
“The reason this is published in a medical journal is that medicine has identified racism as a health issue,” Reasons said. “We know that stress, specifically on young blacks, from seeing images of people who look like them dead at the hands of law enforcement, has a negative effect on the overall health of a community.”
Reasons has a long history of research into racial justice issues, having published his first book on the subject, Race, Crime, and Justice, as a graduate student in 1972. He credits the events of the time with first igniting his passion for the study of the impacts of racism on the legal process.
“I got interested in the issue of race and justice during the Civil Rights movement, in the 1960s,” Reasons said. “A fellow graduate student and I were very concerned about the issue, as he had been a police officer, and had seen the kind of express racism that existed in policing at the time.”
Reasons was part of a taskforce on racial justice in Seattle in 2010. That taskforce reconvened following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, for the purpose of conducting solution-oriented research into the ongoing struggle for accountability in policing.
“Our goal is to provide empirical evidence and information to guide policy,” Reasons said. “We, as criminologists, never really address the issue of civilian homicide. There have been studies, of course, but there wasn’t any larger societal attention to it.”
Having studied the issue for almost all of his professional career, Reasons saw the advent of cellphone cameras and more accessible recording technology as a turning point for research into racial justice.
“Now, you have citizens who can record anything at any time,” he said. “At times, as we’ve seen, they can capture things that run completely contrary to the official police reports. If we didn’t have that recording, Floyd would just have been another suspect who died in custody.”
The article concerns itself chiefly with stating the facts, as empirically and objectively as possible, according to Reasons. A follow-up publication is planned to propose remedies for the issue, and is currently being put together by the article’s co-authors. Reasons sees continued research and analysis as critical to the process of creating a more equal society.
“Race, historically as well as today, is very much a part of the American fabric and legacy,” Reasons said. “Rather than ignoring it, let’s address it, examine it, and be honest about what our history and its legacy have created today.”
Media contact: Rune Torgersen, Department of Public Affairs, firstname.lastname@example.org