Archive for December 5th, 2017

December 5, 2017

Levine Presents at Wake Forest and University of Washington Law Schools

Professor Kate Levine was invited to present her work-in-progress, Discipline and Policing, at two faculty workshops this Fall.  levine

On October 5, 2017, she presented to the Wake Forest University Law School faculty, and on November 9, 2017, she presented to the University of Washington School of Law faculty. The paper has also been selected for the American Constitution Society’s, Junior Scholars Public Law Workshop, held at the AALS 2018 meeting in San Diego, CA, on January 4, 2018.

Discipline and Policing examines police disciplinary records (PDRs). These records are part of an officer’s personnel file and contain reported wrongdoing from sources such as supervisors, Internal Affairs Bureau investigations, and Community Complaint Review Boards. Professor Levine’s article argues that a current movement, led mostly by civil rights groups, to make PDRs public is problematic on a number of levels. The paper first shows how prevalent the notion of transparency has become in police reform scholarship and policymaking. It questions the efficacy and long-term benefits of the “transparency cure” for policing problems generally, and then does so specifically for PDRs. Advocates of PDR transparency hope that making records public will ramp up discipline of bad officers, reform police departments, and make communities safer. The paper argues that these hopes are in vain, and that, in fact, there is a real concern that police departments will retrench if forced to make discipline more public. The paper then shows how similar arguments in favor of making PDR’s public are to arguments deployed successfully by those who wished to make criminal records public — a reality that has been lamented and critiqued by scholars for decades. Finally, the paper shows that many of the problems inherent in making criminal record public: inaccuracy, arbitrariness, overdermination, and racial injustice, are just as problematic for PDRs, which emerge from a system comparable in its confusion and byzantine nature to the criminal justice system. Thus, the arguments scholars have made for decades about criminal record publication should be considered when it comes to PDR publication. And, the language which police groups use to defend their rights can and should be leveraged to argue for a tamping down of harshness toward criminal defendants. This paper builds on a series of articles arguing that the trend toward harshness for police who are accused of wrongdoing legitimates the harshness with which criminal defendants are treated.

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