Experts caution against watching police body-cam footage
Although ‘abhorrent, it normalizes it to either induce others or sit in somebody’s head’
- ‘Emotions can be overwhelming for some, while others are becoming numb due to its pervasiveness’
- ‘Can impact our overall mental health, how we feel about ourselves and those around us’
- ‘Science has shown kids viewing any form of virtual violence can lead to more aggressive behavior’
CHICAGO --- Northwestern University experts in psychiatry and pediatrics caution people against watching the police body-cam footage released today of the October 2022, attack on Paul Pelosi in his San Francisco home and the yet-to-be-released footage of Tyre Nichols’ attack in Memphis from earlier this month.
These experts are available for interviews:
- John Walkup, chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a physician at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. To schedule an interview, contact Kristin Samuelson.
- Sheehan Fisher, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Feinberg and a Northwestern Medicine psychologist. To reach him over the weekend, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Audrey Brewer, instructor of pediatrics at Feinberg and a physician at Lurie Children’s. To schedule an interview, contact Kristin Samuelson.
Quotes from Dr. Walkup:
“At some point we have to say that yes, this stuff has to be in the public domain, and yes, some people have to look at it, but the vast majority of human beings don’t need to look at this, particularly children, and I would extend that to adolescents. There’s no good that can come from it.
“In a perverse way, it encourages others. Even though it’s abhorrent, it normalizes it to either induce others or sit in somebody’s head.”
Quotes from Professor Fisher:
"Police violence against Black people creates anger, fear and emotional pain for those who are sympathetic with this historical and ongoing violence. These emotions can be overwhelming for some, while others are becoming numb due to its pervasiveness.
"It is important to find a healthy way to confront these emotions and turn them into action so that a person does not feel helpless to change the cruelty and inhumane actions that are a norm. For example, having a support system like a friend, community leader or therapist to share one's emotional experience allows a person to process one's pain.
“We do need to question whether exposure to the visual images and videos is healthy for people, especially for children and even their parents. We need to be informed and incited to make change, but overexposure to violence can cause harm to our psychological well-being. Children need to be informed of the world events that affect them and other communities, without exposing them to footage that is age inappropriate."
Quotes from Dr. Brewer:
“I definitely think it’s not something adults or children should really be watching because it can be very traumatizing to any individual, can impact our overall mental health and how we feel about ourselves and those around us. I still to this day can see the clear picture in my mind of the Rodney King incident, and it’s still traumatizing. Of course we want to spread more awareness of these issues, but what are we solving? If the objective is to create more transparency to bridge this gap between the way the community feels about the police, I don’t know if this necessarily helps. I don’t see it as very beneficial to our overall health. There should be a better way to address those feelings.
“Science has shown kids viewing any form of virtual violence can really influence their behavior, and can lead to more aggressive behavior. Sometimes kids may even think that some of this behavior can be normal and acceptable. First and foremost, we should be wanting to protect our children and keep them from anything that can harm them in multiple ways. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) acknowledges that although media are not the ‘leading cause of any major health problem in the United States, there is evidence that clearly shows media can and does contribute significantly to different behavioral, mental and other health concerns.’”
Brewer recommended parents and caregivers review this family media plan from the AAP.
“It highlights many things about virtual violence that I think can help families have conversations about what we are watching on TV, what parents/caregivers can do to keep their children safe and how to engage in conversations surrounding virtual violence.”