Reconsidering Criminal Procedure: Teaching the Law of the Police

23 Pages Posted: 14 Aug 2016 Last revised: 21 Sep 2016

See all articles by Rachel Harmon

Rachel Harmon

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: August 9, 2016


The fight over how to govern the police has become the most controversial legal topic in American politics, yet American lawyers are often are unprepared to participate in the debate. They leave law school knowing next to nothing about the myriad legal rules that govern policing; the ways police can be encouraged to comply with those rules or punished for violations; or which legal solutions fit which problems. Worse yet, they are unaware of their ignorance. They are often led to believe that criminal procedure courses enable them to understand policing and its regulation. In this brief Article, published in the journal's special issue on teaching criminal procedure, I describe the course I teach to fill this gap, The Law of the Police. A casebook for the course will be published next year. In the meantime, this Article describes how and why criminal procedure classes present a distorted picture of legal regulation of the police; it provides an overview of the materials and themes of the course I teach; and it includes one exam. The course is designed to consider how we govern policing in the United States and how we might do it differently, and if it is successful, it prepares law students to enter the public debate on policing ready to do the same.

Keywords: policing, regulation, criminal procedure, teaching

Suggested Citation

Harmon, Rachel, Reconsidering Criminal Procedure: Teaching the Law of the Police (August 9, 2016). 60 St. Louis University Law Journal 391 (2016) , Virginia Public Law and Legal Theory Research Paper No. 2016-54, Available at SSRN:

Rachel Harmon (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics