Childhood Trauma and Its Effects: Implications for Police

Another great piece shared by Philadelphia Taskforce member, Risa Mandell.

By Richard G. Dudley, Jr., M.D.

Repeated exposure to traumatic events during childhood can have dramatic and long-lasting effects. During the past 20 years, there has been an enormous increase in our understanding of how being repeatedly traumatized by violence affects the growth and development of preadolescent children, especially when such traumatized children lack a nurturing and protective parental figure that might mitigate the impact of the trauma. In this paper, I summarize the current understanding of the effects of ongoing trauma on young children, how these effects impair adolescent and young adult functioning, and the possible implications of this for policing. 


To demonstrate this, I describe the case of a 17-year-old African American male who was charged with attempted murder. I was asked to perform a psychiatric evaluation because (1) everyone who knew him was shocked about what happened because, before the crime, he had never been in trouble and he had always appeared to be functioning well; and (2) he appeared to be extremely unemotional about what happened, which his attorney viewed as either a lack of remorse or a failure to appreciate how much trouble he was in. 


Read the full paper here.


Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety

This is one in a series of papers that will be published as a result of the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety.

Harvard’s Executive Sessions are a convening of individuals of independent standing who take joint responsibility for rethinking and improving society’s responses to an issue. Members are selected based on their experiences, their reputation for thoughtfulness and their potential for helping to disseminate the work of the Session. In the early 1980s, an Executive Session on Policing helped resolve many law enforcement issues of the day. It produced a number of papers and concepts that revolutionized policing. Thirty years later, law enforcement has changed and NIJ and the Harvard Kennedy School are again collaborating to help resolve law enforcement issues of the day.

Learn more about the Executive Session on Policing and Public Safety at:, keywords “Executive Session Policing”, keywords “Executive Session Policing” 

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