A New Report from the American Constitution Society Explores Barriers to Police Accountability

ACS has released a new issue brief, authored by Kami N. Chavis and Conor Degnan, exploring the difficulty in holding police officers accountable in excessive force cases.

The report focuses on the conflicts of interest that confront prosecutors who bring charges against officers they work with, the difficulty of overcoming qualified immunity in excessive force lawsuits, and the federal government’s reluctance┬áto intervene in police departments with patterns and practices of abuse.

This Issue Brief summarizes some of the traditional mechanisms for holding police accountable for misconduct, offers a critique of each, and ends with suggestions for the future of police accountability. Part I focuses on some of the legal and structural impediments to police accountability including the inherent conflicts of interest that frequently prevent local prosecutors from prosecuting police officers accused of using excessive force. Part I also discusses how the doctrine of qualified immunity shields officers from civil liability when a suspect is harmed or dies in police custody. Part II explores how the Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to properly leverage its authority to investigate patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing to increase police accountability. Part III discusses potential solutions, including the impact police-worn body cameras, prosecutorial independence, and increased civil oversight may have on police accountability.

The full report can be found here.