Study: This Article argues that police disciplinary appeals serve as an underappreciated
barrier to officer accountability and organizational reform. Scholars and experts
generally agree that rigorous enforcement of internal regulations within a police
department promotes constitutional policing by deterring future misconduct and
removing unfit officers from the streets. In recent years, though, a troubling pattern
has emerged. Because of internal appeals procedures, police departments must often
rehire or significantly reduce disciplinary sanctions against officers who have engaged
in serious misconduct. Little legal research has comprehensively examined the appeals
process available to officers facing disciplinary sanctions.
Study: What can explain variation in police abuse across America’s largest enforcement agencies?
This question is salient given the media attention and the investigations conducted by the
US Department of Justice finding problems of accountability and transparency in
America’s policing apparatus. Situating itself on the intersection between the public-sector
union, special interest group, and criminology literature, this thesis argues that police union
mechanisms, specifically police protections, can explain variation in police abuse.
Insight: Since 2006, the nation’s largest police departments have fired at least 1,881 officers for misconduct that betrayed the public’s trust, from cheating on overtime to unjustified shootings. But The Washington Post has found that departments have been forced to reinstate more than 450 officers after appeals required by union contracts.
Insight:In These Times reviewed the 17 consent decrees reached between local governments, police departments and the Justice Department between 1997 and 2016, as well as news articles and federal monitors’ reports discussing how cities have—and have not—complied with the settlements. In at least seven cases, collective bargaining agreements presented a roadblock to achieving key reforms required by the settlements. Police unions watered down measures that contradicted their contracts, or they launched legal challenges that, even when unsuccessful, delayed implementation.