Response to When Police Kill
22 Berkeley Journal of Criminal Law __ (Forthcoming)
13 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2018
Date Written: April 1, 2018
The purpose of this short symposium Essay is to build on Professor Zimring’s important contributions in When Police Kill. It does this by expanding on two points from the book. First, this Essay builds on Zimring’s observations about the causes of the seemingly high levels of police killings in some jurisdictions in the United States, and the failure of many jurisdictions to respond to this phenomenon. Zimring persuasively links the high number of police killings to a number of different factors. But as I argue in Part I of this Essay, another factor may be worth adding to Zimring’s lengthy list: local police union contracts, law enforcement officer bills of rights, and other labor provisions that can prevent local authorities from adequately investigating or responding to police killings.
Second, this Essay explores Zimring’s recommendation at the end of his book that Congress pass “legislation expanding the funding for the civil rights division of the Department of Justice for consent decrees and litigation concerning police departments and municipalities with high rates of lethal force and poor controls of officers who shoot.” Zimring goes on to argue that the Department of Justice should place a “stronger emphasis on lethal force” in its identification of police departments in need of federal assistance through either voluntary assistance via the Community Oriented Policing Services program or full scale intervention under 42 U.S.C. § 14141. As I illustrate, this proposal is both immediately feasible and normatively desirable. By drawing on prior research into the DOJ’s use of § 14141, I demonstrate how the DOJ could harness Zimring’s proposed federal database on police violence to improve its enforcement of § 14141 in a manner that directly fights police violence.
Combined, these observations merely supplement Professor Zimring’s compelling and timely research in When Police Kill.
Keywords: When Police Kill, Book Review, Police Killings, Police Shootings, Use of Force, Deadly Force, Policing, Civil Rights
JEL Classification: K1, K14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation