Good and Bad Ways to Address Police Violence
The Urban Lawyer, volume 48, pages 675-736 (2016)
63 Pages Posted: 4 Nov 2016 Last revised: 3 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 2, 2017
Concerns about the use of excessive force by police, especially when directed at persons of color, have long been prevalent. A wide variety of proposals have been advanced to address the problem, including more robust regimes of criminal or civil liability, and reforms that facilitate the supervision and discipline of officers.
The striking thing about the reform menu is that it is virtually all stick and no carrot. This approach is less likely to produce optimal performance than over-deterrence – sometimes called de-policing. It is also likely to reinforce the code of silence – frequently documented in the literature on policing – in which police do not acknowledge wrongdoing in order to insulate themselves and their peers from discipline. Equally important, there has been no effort to assess proposed reforms in light of what we know about the sociology of policing and the ecology of high-crime communities. This literature suggests that high-crime communities are unlikely to achieve anything like stability without a robust police presence. Reforms that fail to grasp the need for aggressive policing at criminogenic hot spots are doomed to failure.
Utilizing the scholarly literature on policing, urban sociology, criminology, and, occasionally, the author’s experiences as a senior municipal official, this article identifies the weaknesses of leading proposals for addressing police violence, and considers as well some novel proposals that have not yet received attention in the scholarly literature, but that show greater promise for dismantling the code of silence and rendering policing more transparent and accountable.
Keywords: Police Misconduct, Police Shootings, Use of Force, Excessive Force, Criminology
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