Race and Reform

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We are deeply saddened by the death of George Floyd as well as those who came before him in a long line of similar injustices against individuals in the African American community, other communities of color, as well as the underserved. The misuse of police force, and the resulting protests that have erupted across our country, highlight the need for prompt, meaningful criminal justice reform. The Academy for Justice stands ready to share insights gleaned from years of rigorous academic research into the practice of policing, the role and effects of race on police decision making, and this issue of police accountability.

Our Policing: Race and Reform section is here to provide resources for those who wish to learn more about these and similar topics in this ongoing and important discussion. A compilation of materials, including research-based articles, can be found here.

Podcast Release

Mending Relationships in the Community -
Where do we go from here?

Academy for Justice has partnered with Legal-Ease Podcast to discuss current issues affecting criminal justice reform. In our latest episode, co-hosts Dawn Walton, Executive Director of the Academy for Justice and Andre Anderson, Glendale Police Department Commander of Special Operations, spoke with chiefs of police on the current state of affairs and what police departments need to do to mend relationships in the community.

A special thank you to our guests for this episode, Phoenix Police Department Chief Jeri Williams, Dallas Police Department Chief U. Reneé Hall, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) Vice President Lynda Williams, and Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law professor and A4J Associate Deputy Director Ben McJunkin, for their time and insight into this delicate, but important, topic.

Listen now on Stitcher, Spotify or Soundcloud by clicking on the respective link below.

Stitcher Spotify Soundcloud

Webinar - Police Violence in America: Obvious Problem, Obvious Solution

Academy for Justice research

Legal Remedies for Police Misconduct

Rachel A. Harmon, F.D.G. Ribble Professor of Law, University of Virginia, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

Federal courts have limited the legal remedies for constitutional violations in policing to the point that they do not discourage police misconduct to the satisfaction of many communities. PDF

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Race and the New Policing

Jeffrey Fagan, Isidor & Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Epidemiology, Columbia University, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

The “New Policing” model and its emphasis on advanced statistical metrics, new forms of organizational accountability, and aggressive tactical enforcement of minor crimes has been adopted in large and small cities, and has been institutionalized in everyday police-citizen interactions, especially among residents of poorer, often minority, and higher crime areas. PDF

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Racial Profiling

David A. Harris, Professor of Law and John E. Murray Faculty Scholar, University of Pittsburgh, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

This paper describes the points at which racial profiling arises in law enforcement, the legal tools and incentives that drive it, and the harm that racial profiling does to people, and to the criminal justice system as a whole. PDF

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Race and the Fourth Amendment

Devon W. Carbado, The Honorable Harry Pregerson Professor of Law and Associate Vice Chancellor, BruinX, the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, University of California, Los Angeles, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

Few people, including lawyers, journalists, legislators, educators, and community organizers, understand the enormously important role Fourth Amendment law plays in enabling the very thing it ought to prevent: racial profiling and police violence. PDF

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Police Use of Force

L. Song Richardson, Interim Dean and Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

Illuminates how “racial anxiety” can enable racial disparities in police uses of force even in the absence of racial animus and even when people of color are acting identically to their white counterparts. PDF

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Prosecutorial Guidelines

John F. Pfaff, Professor of Law, Fordham University, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 3

Reformers are increasingly aware of the central role prosecutors have played in driving up the U.S. prison population. Yet few if any reform efforts have sought to directly restrict prosecutorial power. PDF

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Race and Adjudication

Paul Butler, Albert Brick Professor in Law, Georgetown University, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 3

At virtually every step of adjudication—charging, setting bail, plea-bargaining, jury selection, trial, and sentencing—law enforcement officials exercise discretion in ways that disproportionately harm people of color. PDF

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Race and Sentencing Disparity

Cassia Spohn, Foundation Professor of Criminology and Director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 4

Although the overt and widespread racism that characterized the operation of the criminal justice system during the early part of the 20th century has largely been eliminated, racial disparities in sentencing and punishment persist. PDF

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What the Brain Saw: The Case of Trayvon Martin and the Need for Eyewitness Identification Reform

Beety, Valena Elizabeth, What the Brain Saw: The Case of Trayvon Martin and the Need for Eyewitness Identification Reform. Denver University Law Review, Vol. 90:2, 2012

The shooting of Trayvon Martin caused many to question what exactly led to the death of an unarmed seventeen-year-old African-American teenager. This essay provides at least one answer: the brain in creating and preserving memories can distort one's perception of events and people. PDF

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Democratic Accountability and Policing

Maria Ponomarenko, Adjunct Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Policing Project, New York University and Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law, Affiliated Professor of Politics, and Director of the Policing Project, New York University, Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

Often when people talk about accountability in policing, they are focused on “back-end” accountability, which kicks in after something has gone wrong. What is needed in policing is accountability on the “front end”—which means that the public gets to have a say in what the rules for policing should be in the first place. PDF

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Other research

Transforming the Police

Charles M. Katz, Edward R. Maguire, January 20, 2020

Are you concerned about the future of policing? Forty leading police researchers and police executives reflect on police reform. Book

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The President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing

On December 18, 2014, President Barack Obama signed an executive order establishing the Task Force on 21st Century Policing. The task force met with more than 100 individuals with disparate interest, from law enforcement officers to academics, to discover how “policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust.” The task force established recommendations organized around their six main topic pillars and provided two recommendations for President Barack Obama. PDF

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Policing, Protesting, and the Insignificance of Hostile Audiences

Rachel A. Harmon, F.D.G. Ribble Professor of Law, University of Virginia

In this Essay, Professor Harmon contends that First Amendment law fails to address the challenges posed in policing contemporary protests. When protestors seek to bring about social change by disruption in addition to speech, the First Amendment allows police broad latitude to suppress the protests. The result is that police responses to contemporary protests will vary with each community's views about the value of free speech, the costs of employing police coercion, and the ongoing consequences of distrust of law enforcement. Legal doctrines will often be less important than political will and participant preferences in determining what our system of free expression looks like when it hits the streets. PDF

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Cop Fragility and Blue Lives Matter

Frank Rudy Cooper, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, William S. Boyd School of Law

In this article, Professor Cooper examines the Blue Lives Matter movement, providing an explanation for police resistance to criticism from movements such as Black Lives Matter and #SayHerName. Specifically, it draws analogies between the narratives that the Blue Lives Matter movement employs and the theory of white fragility, which rests on a false belief in objectivity and an overly narrow definition of racial subordination. Drawing on a proven methodology to overcome white fragility, Professor Cooper proposes that police departments engage in mediated listening sessions with their communities in order to identify reforms that can rebuild community trust in the police. PDF

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Race and Reasonableness in Police Killings

Jeffrey Fagan, Columbia Law School and Alexis Campbell, Columbia Human Rights Law Review

In this article, Fagan and Campbell analyze data on policing killings to examine whether police disproportionality use deadly force against nonwhite suspects. They find that Black suspects are more than twice as likely as any other racial or ethnic group to be killed by police, even when controlling for the types of circumstances that could make the use of force legally "reasonable." They propose revising police officer training programs to explicitly emphasize the role race plays in officers' perception of risk and their decision-making. PDF

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Fourth Amendment Spillage and the Regulation of Police Violence

Seth W. Stoughton, University of South Carolina School of Law

In this forthcoming article, Professor Stoughton explains why the Constitution does not successfully regulate the use (and sometimes abuse) of force by police. He proposes that both state law and internal police department policies are better mechanisms to regulate police violence, but only if state lawmakers and administrative policymakers stop merely adopting constitutional standards as their regulatory frameworks. PDF

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Criminal Procedure and the Good Citizen

I. Bennett Capers, Brooklyn Law School

In this article, Professor Capers highlights a troubling phenomenon in the adjudication of police-misconduct cases. Courts, including the Supreme Court, frequently decide criminal procedure cases based on embedded assumptions about how a "good citizen" should behave. The assumed behaviors include not talking back to police, not waiving their rights, and not questioning the boundaries or lawfulness of police conduct. These behaviors are not only troubling in that they encourage citizens to waive their rights, but also in that they operate to chill dissent and entrench racial inequality in its burdens. Professor Capers calls on legal actors, including lawyers and judges, to imagine and respect a pluralistic model of citizenship that tolerates (if not welcomes) dissent and opposition. PDF

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Blueprint for Police Accountability and Reform - A New Vision for Policing and the Justice System

Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP)

The recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are among many horrifying episodes of police brutality and excessive force that have long targeted and devastated Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color across the nation. These incidents – and persistent problems with police misconduct – lay bare the unbroken link between slavery and modern raciallybiased policing and elevate the urgent moral imperative for a reset of the justice system. Structural reform is necessary to promote a justice system that lives up to its name. PDF

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Promoting Independent Police Accountability Mechanisms

Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP)

District attorneys’ relationship to local law enforcement, including their response to allegations of officer misconduct, is often an area of profound community concern and increasing public scrutiny. This FJP “Issues at a Glance” brief addresses how district attorneys can best ensure constitutional and legal policing in their jurisdictions and seek criminal accountability where appropriate for police officers who have violated the law in a manner that supports public safety and builds community trust. PDF

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Fair and Just Prosecution (FJP)

We are elected prosecutors from communities across the United States. We are charged with upholding justice and protecting the safety of all members of our community regardless of the color of their skin, whether they wear a badge, or the neighborhood where they live. We denounce the murder of George Floyd as a profound tragedy and an affront to justice everywhere. We extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Floyd and the entire Minneapolis community. And we say loudly and unequivocally: Enough. PDF

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Articles to read

“America’s Racial Contract Is Killing Us” by Adam Serwer | Atlantic (May 8, 2020)

The pandemic has exposed the bitter terms of our racial contract, which deems certain lives of greater value than others.

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The 1619 Project (all the articles) | The New York Times Magazine

Their ancestors were enslaved by law. Today, they are graduates of the nation’s preeminent historically black law school. (Subscription may be required.)

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The Combahee River Collective Statement

We are a collective of Black feminists who have been meeting together since 1974.

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“The Intersectionality Wars” by Jane Coaston | Vox (May 28, 2019)

When Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term 30 years ago, it was a relatively obscure legal concept. Then it went viral.

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Tips for Creating Effective White Caucus Groups developed by Craig Elliott PhD

PDF Whiteness often has us stuck in our heads and intellectualizing. We cannot be effective in partnering for change if we stay in our heads; we need to be courageous to engage, be vulnerable, feel, and be imperfect. Only then can we partner with other whites and people of color. .

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Answering White People’s Most Commonly Asked Questions about the Black Lives Matter Movement by Courtney Martin (June 1, 2020)

A Q&A by—and for—people with privilege who want to learn more about racial justice.

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"White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Knapsack Peggy McIntosh

PDF "I was taught to see racism only in individual acts of meanness, not in invisible systems conferring dominance on my group"

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“Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?” by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi | Atlantic (May 12, 2020)

Americans don’t see me, or Ahmaud Arbery, running down the road—they see their fear.

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Why It’s So Rare For Police Officers To Face Legal Consequences

On Friday, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter after he was caught on video pressing his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even though Floyd told him repeatedly he couldn’t breathe. And now Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is adding a second-degree murder charge, in addition to charging the three officers who were on the scene when Floyd was killed. Read more>>

We must tear down the ‘blue wall of silence.’ Here’s how civil lawsuits could help. - The Washington Post

"We propose that states adopt laws creating an affirmative duty for police officers to intervene in police misconduct, and allowing civil suits if they do not."

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Videos to watch

Podcasts to subscribe to

1619 (New York Times)

An audio series on how slavery has transformed America, connecting past and present through the oldest form of storytelling.

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About Race

Co-discussants Anna Holmes, Baratunde Thurston, Raquel Cepeda and Tanner Colby host a lively multiracial, interracial conversation about the ways we can’t talk, don’t talk, would rather not talk, but intermittently, fitfully, embarrassingly do talk about culture, identity, politics, power, and privilege in our pre-post-yet-still-very-racial America. This show is "About Race."

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Code Switch (NPR)

Remember when folks used to talk about being "post-racial"? Well, we're definitely not that. We're a multi-racial, multi-generational team of journalists fascinated by the overlapping themes of race, ethnicity and culture, how they play out in our lives and communities, and how all of this is shifting.

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Intersectionality Matters! hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw

Intersectionality Matters! is a podcast hosted by Kimberlé Crenshaw, an American civil rights advocate and a leading scholar of critical race theory.

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Momentum: A Race Forward Podcast

Features movement voices, stories, and strategies for racial justice. Co-hosts Chevon and Hiba give their unique takes on race and pop culture, and uplift narratives of hope, struggle, and joy, as we continue to build the momentum needed to advance racial justice in our policies, institutions, and culture. Build on your racial justice lens and get inspired to drive action by learning from organizational leaders and community activists.

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Pod For The Cause (from The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights)

From the courts to immigration, we’re seeing unprecedented attacks on the values we hold near and dear. At Pod for the Cause, we’re going to tackle these issues and more. Our friends in the movement will be stopping by to have these conversations, and they promise to be real, straightforward and honest.

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Pod Save the People (Crooked Media)

Organizer and activist DeRay Mckesson explores news, culture, social justice, and politics with fellow activists Brittany Packnett Cunningham and Sam Sinyangwe, and writer Dr. Clint Smith. They offer a unique take on the news, with a special focus on overlooked stories and topics that often impact people of color.

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Seeing White

Features movement voices, stories, and strategies for racial justice. Co-hosts Chevon and Hiba give their unique takes on race and pop culture, and uplift narratives of hope, struggle, and joy, as we continue to build the momentum needed to advance racial justice in our policies, institutions, and culture. Build on your racial justice lens and get inspired to drive action by learning from organizational leaders and community activists.

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Books to read:


Films and TV series to watch:


Organizations to follow on social media:


Additional resources:


Resources for parents: