Research indicates policing videos contribute to trauma symptoms among Black Americans

Headshot of Glenna Read over blurred out image of Grady College
Glenna Read, director of the Brain, Body and Media Lab at Grady College, recently published “Viewing violent policing videos contributes to trauma symptoms for Black Americans.” Harry Y. Yan of Texas A&M and Rachel L. Bailey of Florida State University were co-authors of the paper.

Research indicates policing videos contribute to trauma symptoms among Black Americans

November 29, 2023

Viewing violent police videos can result in trouble sleeping, symptoms of PTSD and feelings of being on guard, especially among Black Americans, according to research published in the Fall 2023 issue of Cultural Diversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology.

The research, “Viewing violent policing videos contributes to trauma symptoms for Black Americans,” was conducted by Glenna L. Read of University of Georgia Grady College; Harry Y. Yan of Texas A&M; and Rachel L. Bailey of Florida State University.

With the proliferation of body cameras worn by police officers, and the use of cell phones by bystanders at crime scenes, videos showing police interaction are widely viewed in mainstream and social media. This study sought to see if Black Americans would report higher levels of negative experiences with police and greater exposure to violent police videos than white Americans. The survey also sought to find out whether worry about being stereotyped as a criminal is associated with more experience of trauma symptoms.

The survey asked a series of questions to 1240 participants and compared reactions by white Americans and Black Americans. The study showed that Black Americans reported more trauma symptoms and increased concerns of being discriminated against and stereotyped, versus white respondents who were exposed to violent police videos.

“Even though this is vicarious trauma, experienced through media, it has an impact on mental health,” said Read, an associate professor of advertising and director of the Brain, Body and Media Lab at Grady College.

Researchers asked survey respondents about the level of worry they had interacting with the police, whether they had previous experience with the police, if they had viewed any violent police videos in the last year and if so what level of exposure they had, and a self-report of their PTSD symptoms as the result of watching the videos.

The results of this survey have implications for how trauma is diagnosed. Currently, vicarious trauma that is experienced through electronic or print media is explicitly excluded from the criteria for PTSD diagnoses according to the DSM-5 classification.

DSM-5 is the standard classification of mental disorders used by mental health professionals in the United States and is used in diagnosing patients.

Read said that watching these videos is associated with a belief that one could be stereotyped as a criminal and that this shift indicates a change in world view. Even though people aren’t experiencing these events first-hand, they do affect the way that they think about the world and how threatening they perceive the world to be.

“Even though mediated vicarious trauma is not diagnosable, it is something that has a real impact on mental health and it’s something that mental health practitioners should be aware of, especially for their Black clients,” Read said.

Read said this study is one piece of a larger research collaboration with Drs. Bailey and Yan investigating the impacts of body worn cameras. Together, the team has also published research investigating how the first person camera angle of videos from body-worn cameras bias assessments of citizen and police culpability for violent police-citizen interactions. They are currently testing an intervention to reduce this bias.

Read more about this research here:

Writer: Sarah Freeman,

Contact: Glenna Read,