The effect of a decedent’s mental health status on protests following police killings – UROP Spring Symposium 2021

The effect of a decedent’s mental health status on protests following police killings

Katherine Burgin


Pronouns: she/her/hers

Research Mentor(s): Shea Streeter, President’s Postdoctoral Fellow/Assistant Professor
Research Mentor School/College/Department: Political Science, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
Presentation Date: Thursday, April 22, 2021
Session: Session 4 (2pm-2:50pm)
Breakout Room: Room 3
Presenter: 4

Event Link


In 2015, 1,146 Americans were killed by the police, and some of these killings were followed by protests. It is important to investigate why some killings led to protests while others did not. The existence of a protest could be due to numerous factors, such as location, the age of the decedent, the existence of cell phone footage, etc. Specifically, this research investigates whether people are more likely to protest a police killing if the decedent had mental health issues. In order to answer this question, we gather data on each police killing in 2015 using Google search, local newspapers, and social media. This data included whether the decedent had a history of mental health disorders, whether they were behaving erratically at the time of their death, and whether there were any protests following their death. Then, a random sample of 701 of the deaths was taken to investigate whether the decedent’s mental health affected the existence of a protest. We will use the R statistical software and t-tests to determine whether a decedent’s mental health status affects the existence of protests. We expect that there will be more protests if a decedent has mental health issues. These results will reveal more information about protests following police killings in the United States, an important topic because protests have the potential to alter the aftermath of a killing and lead to a heightened awareness of social issues.

Authors: Katherine Burgin, Megan Lindley, Shea Streeter, ,
Research Method: Library/Archival/Internet Research

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