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Sexual minority young people more likely to experience harmful police contact – study

The prevalence of police contact was highest among persons identifying as bisexual (28%) compared to those identifying as heterosexual (21%).

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A study in Canada has shown that members of the LGBTQIA community are more likely to experience harmful police contact.

The study – “Sexual orientation and experiences with police contact in Canada” by Alexander Testa, Dylan B. Jackson, Juan Del Toro, J’Mag Karbeah, Jason M. Nagata, and Kyle T. Ganson – appeared in the Annals of Epidemiology.

For this study, the researchers used logistic and multinomial logistic regression to assess the association between sexual orientation and experiences with police contact among a sample of 940 persons ages 16–30 across Canada.

The researchers found:

  • Compared to heterosexual participants, persons identifying as bisexual were significantly more likely to report having any police contact in the past 12 months.
  • Bisexual and queer, questioning, and other identifying participants were more likely to report having experienced police contact with harassment relative to no police contact, compared to heterosexual individuals.

“Our study suggests a troubling pattern of disproportionate rates of police contact among sexual minority,” said lead author Alexander Testa, PhD,. “Overall, these findings are consistent with minority stress theory, which posits that sexual minority groups may face elevated levels of harassment and microaggressions compared to their heterosexual peers.”

The researchers said that the results are a startling revelation by revealing that much work still has to be done to “ensure sexual minorities are not specifically targeted by the police and harassed during police contact.” This work is also “particularly important given the growing body of research showing that harmful law enforcement contact can damage health, well-being, and developmental outcomes for victims.”

For the researchers, there is a need for greater police training to improve interactions with sexual minority persons, as well as the development of intervention efforts to support sexual minority persons in the aftermath of adverse experiences with police contact.

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