Download this Paper Open PDF in Browser

New Governance and the 'New Paradigm' of Police Accountability: A Democratic Approach to Police Reform

55 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2014

Kami Chavis

Wake Forest University Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: March 11, 2009


The inherent power of police officers in a democratic society fuels the expectation that those bestowed with such power must be held accountable if they abuse it. Although police departments are most deserving of transparency and public accountability, police culture, often characterized by the "blue code of silence," toleration of aggressive policing techniques, and lax internal oversight, impedes the effective implementation and of meaningful police accountability measures. This Article argues that local police agencies are in fact administrative agencies that regulate not only the conduct of citizens, but also the conduct of police officers operating within the agency. Because some community members are aware of pervasive police misconduct within their communities, they are unlikely to view police reforms as legitimate, especially when they are excluded from the reform process. Thus, the notoriously insular nature of police culture and the resulting community tensions create political legitimacy problems similar to those arising in traditional regulatory contexts. The storied relationship between many communities and police officers amplifies the need for political legitimacy in the police reform context. Therefore, federal intervention efforts addressing the persistence of police misconduct and corruption must be carefully crafted to ameliorate deficiencies in the democratic processes used to develop reforms. This Article contends that efforts to reform police institutions should embrace core principles of the emerging new governance theoretical framework because these principles limit community outrage and enhance the legitimacy of police reforms. Specifically, the paradigm of democratic experimentalism, a subcategory of the broader new governance framework, advocates stakeholder deliberation and local experimentation, features that contribute to overall quality and sustainability of the reforms. This Article argues that the paradigmatic shift in policing from the crime control model to community policing mode, which emphasizes police-community collaboration, is analogous to the shift that must now take place within the context of police reform.

Keywords: Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Police practices, Police accountability, New governance, Democratic experimentalism

Suggested Citation

Chavis, Kami, New Governance and the 'New Paradigm' of Police Accountability: A Democratic Approach to Police Reform (March 11, 2009). Catholic University Law Review, Vol. 59, 2010; Wake Forest Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 1354627. Available at SSRN: or

Kami Chavis (Contact Author)

Wake Forest University Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 7206
Winston-Salem, NC 27109
United States

Paper statistics

Abstract Views