From Oakland and Ferguson, to Cleveland and Baltimore, cities across the country mourn young African-Americans whose tragic deaths, following contentious encounters with police, illustrate the violent exchange that can erupt between law enforcement and people of color. Because police are vital pillars of community safety, these events raise important questions about how they influence the life course of children of color.

Despite public concern for how police impact black lives, few publications in the medical literature contextualize police behavior within a clinical framework. Those that do, rarely explore the extent to which police treatment functions as a social determinant of health, with unique implications for children.1 These implications provide pediatricians an opportunity to examine and address how police exposure affects child and adolescent health.

Police exposure begins in neighborhoods, where police discretion determines who is suspicious and sets the latitude with which the law is enforced. That latitude varies...

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