The Lawfare Podcast: How the Police Became Untouchable

By Jen Patja Howell
Tuesday, February 14, 2023, 5:01 AM

Last month's brutal murder of Tyre Nichols by Memphis police has once again sparked a national conversation about the causes of and remedies for persistent police misconduct and abuse. To explore this issue, Jack Goldsmith sat down with Joanna Schwartz, a law professor at UCLA School of Law, who is the author of a new book called, “Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable.” The book argues that police abuse is a result of pervasive pathologies in the legal system that shield from accountability not just police officers, but also their supervisors and the local governments for which they work.

Joanna and Jack discussed the many accountability gaps in the legal regime governing police abuse. Like her book, they focused on problems of achieving justice through the civil rights system, problems that include the high bars to finding a lawyer and to convincing a judge to hear the case, Fourth Amendment doctrine, qualified immunity, and the challenges of municipal liability. They also discussed the best path to reform and the prospects of reform.