• October 23, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Stan Stojkovic, Dean and Professor, Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

    A common perception is that police officers are uniformly in favor of gun control laws, especially laws that target criminals from possessing firearms. My experience of interacting and working with law enforcement professionals for more than  40 years has shown me that accepted general views of police officers are often times incorrect, or in some case, downright wrong.

    Policing is big in America: over 16,000 police agencies and 600,000 police officers and billions of dollars in federal, state and municipal expenditures. For many communities the cost of policing outstrips other public outlays – schools, road repair, health care, etc., yet the views of police are often misunderstood because we fail to place those views in the contexts in which they are generated.

    American policing has always been a home grown response to crime. The historian Sam Walker has documented how American criminal justice (including policing) has a uniquely distinctive side to it influenced by local notions of “popular justice.” Local communities matter in how police officers understand their jobs and how they deliver police services. Policing in Milwaukee, Wis. is not policing in Chicago, Ill., even though they are only 90 miles apart. In fact, in large cities policing is so variable police administrators have to respond in ways that are innovative and unique to local circumstances within their own communities.

    Police research has demonstrated the importance of environment and supervision in producing community acceptable outcomes among the officers who protect us every day. Police administrators know that policing differs by police district and as such one should expect police attitudes to be variable on just about any issue you can think of, and this includes the issue of gun control. Why would the police be any different than any other occupational group on any particular issue?

  • May 28, 2015
    Guest Post

    by Tom Nolan, Associate Professor of Criminology, Merrimack College; 27-year veteran of the Boston Police Department

    If there is one constant, predictable, and never-ending narrative that I’ve been hearing about policing since I began my career in law enforcement in 1978, it’s that “policing is not like it used to be”; “I’ve never seen it this bad”; “policing will never be the same”; “the bad guys are going to take over.”  According to The Baltimore Sun, “Lt. Victor Gearhart, a 33-year veteran who works in the Southern District, said residents with complaints about police 'are going to get the police force they want, and God help them.'" 

    Baltimore County State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s decision to charge six Baltimore police officers criminally in the death of Freddie Gray has resulted in an all too familiar trope: The cops are outraged at this obvious and insulting injustice and are now “fearful” and “dejected” — afraid to do their jobs, lest they too fall victim to the whim and capriciousness of prosecutorial discretion.  And “the bad guys are going to take advantage” of the consequences of Mosby’s decision: A work slowdown.  Please. 

    The high ranking Baltimore police officers quoted in The Baltimore Sun piece, “Violence surges as Baltimore police officers feel hesitant,” all of whom have decades of law enforcement experience, should clearly know better than to make such inflammatory, irresponsible, and incendiary remarks about police officers being afraid or reluctant to do their jobs out of a fear of being prosecuted.  I have had the privilege of working with thousands of police officers in my years in law enforcement and I have never met one who would fail to do what was needed in a situation requiring law enforcement intervention out of a fear of being criminally prosecuted for doing the right thing. It doesn’t happen in Boston, and it has not, does not, and will not happen in Baltimore.

  • April 22, 2015

    by Caroline Cox

    In SalonMarcy Wheeler explains why new reforms governing surveillance are not likely to solve many problems. 
    Russell Berman reports for The Atlantic that after a five-and-a-half month wait, the Senate is ready to confirm Loretta Lynch as U.S. Attorney General. 
    At the Constitutional Accountability Center's Text & History BlogDavid H. Gans discusses the importance of the Equal Protection Clause in the same-sex marriage cases.
    Noah Feldman writes at Bloomberg View that the Supreme Court's decision on Tuesday that police cannot performa a cannot prolong a traffic stop to search for drugs with a trained canine illustrates a growing concern on the Supreme Court with police conduct. 
    At NPRNina Totenberg provides further coverage of the Supreme Court's Tuesday decision on canine drug searches during traffic stops.
  • December 3, 2014

    by Caroline Cox

    In The Wall Street Journal, Rob Barry and Coulter Jones report that hundreds of police killings are uncounted in national statistics.

    Burgess Everett reports in Politico on a last attempt by Senate Democrats to create meaningful campaign finance reform. 

    In The Economist’s Democracy in America blog, Steven Mazie provides an overview of Elonis and ponders the precedent that decision on the case could set.

    Nina Totenberg of NPR examines Young v. UPS and considers how the Supreme Court will rule in this new pregnancy discrimination case.

    Scott Dolan of the Portland Press Herald reports on a court order for a school district to pay a $75,000 award in the conclusion of “a precedent-setting case over denied access to a student bathroom” brought by a transgender student.

  • December 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Distinguished Professor of Law, Raymond Pryke Professor of First Amendment Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law.

    The failure to indict Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown fits an all too familiar pattern of police officers not being held accountable. The decision to not indict in Ferguson follows the acquittal a year ago of George Zimmerman, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, for the killing of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Even more recently this year, two Fullerton, California police officers were found not guilty of all charges in the killing of Kelly Thomas, a homeless man who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Medical records show that bones in his face were broken and he choked on his own blood; the compression of his thorax by the police made it impossible for Thomas to breath and deprived his brain of oxygen.

    Nor is this a new phenomena.  Even with a videotape of a savage bearing, a state court jury in 1992 acquitted the four officers who beat Rodney King and a subsequent federal court jury acquitted two of them. The riots in Los Angeles, after the state court acquittals, like the unrest last week in Ferguson, reflected the enormous anger and frustration with the inability to hold police accountable.