We know that police put themselves in harm’s way when they don the badge, and some have lain down their lives in the service of protecting society; there is no greater gift. We saw this when police in Dallas ran toward the shooting and pushed protesters out of the path of gunfire. As nurses, we see their courage and care when they escort the injured and sick into our emergency rooms. Yet there is no denying that we are in the midst of a public health crisis that demands a response, including from nurses. Black men are being slain. In the first six months of 2016 alone, nearly 500 people, mostly men of color, have been fatally shot by police. The violence of the killings, now often caught on mobile video cams, shock human decency; they spawn reactive and brutal killings by people who feel hopeless and without recourse.
The public has rated nursing as the most trusted profession year after year, because the public knows that nurses care for the health of all people, regardless of sex, race, age, disease, or other characteristics. Nurses are ethical in their delivery of service, caring for people even when this may imperil our own lives, such as nurses who care for people with Ebola and other communicable diseases. A public health nursing intervention focused on this epidemic would be for police to be trained to approach black men as nurses approach their patients - as people, not black or white people, young or old, rich or poor. Most important, police must see black men not as people whom we need to protect ourselves from, but as people who need our care, our protection, our service.
We understand that the police profession involves danger, but as nurses, and nurses of color, we can no longer be silent witnesses to this epidemic. We call upon Congress and state legislatures to provide the funding for training so that all in the law enforcement profession can be equipped to protect and serve all the public equitably and fairly. Police are in a privileged position of power, just as nurses are, at patients’ bedsides. As one group of professionals dedicated to serving to another, we urge police to use their power to promote equal protection and not more inequality.
Everol Ennis, Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, MSN, Yale School of Nursing ‘09
Jacquelyn Taylor, Associate Professor of Nursing, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Yale School of Nursing
Ann Kurth, Dean, Yale School of Nursing
Mark Lazenby, Associate Professor of Nursing, Yale School of Nursing, and author of the forthcoming Caring Matters Most (Oxford University Press)