The role of gender in the health and human rights practices of police: The SHIELD study in Tijuana, Mexico

Teresita Rocha-Jiménez, Maria Luisa Mittal, Irina Artamonova, Pieter Baker, Javier Cepeda, Mario Morales, Daniela Abramovitz, Erika Clairgue, Arnulfo Bañuelos, Thomas Patterson, Steffanie Strathdee, Leo Beletsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Globally, punitive drug law enforcement drives human rights violations. Drug control tactics, such as syringe confiscation and drug-related arrests, also cascade into health harms among people who use drugs. The role of police officer characteristics in shaping such enforcement and measures to reform police practices remains underexamined. We evaluated gender differences in syringe confiscation and syringe-related arrest behaviors among municipal police officers in Tijuana, Mexico, where syringe possession is legal. In the context of the SHIELD Study focusing on aligning policing with harm reduction measures, our baseline sample covered municipal police officers who reported having occupational contact with syringes. We used multivariable logistic regression with robust variance estimation via a generalized estimating equation to identify correlates of syringe-related policing behaviors. Among respondent officers (n=1,555), 12% were female. After considering possible confounding variables, such as district of service and work experience, female officers were significantly less likely to report confiscating syringes or arresting individuals for syringe possession. Consideration of officer gender is important in the design of interventions to improve the health and human rights of people who inject drugs and other highly policed groups, as well as measures to safeguard officer occupational safety. The feminization of law enforcement deserves special consideration as an imperative in reducing the public health harms of policing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-238
Number of pages12
JournalHealth and human rights
Volume21
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 2019
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations

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