The drumbeat of people being unlawfully killed by police officers continues. Not even the mass protests of 2020 could push Congress to enact federal legislation banning chokeholds or no-knock warrants. Why does reform remain so difficult? Joanna Schwartz, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, has devoted more than two decades to analyzing how our legal system protects the police at every level, from the Supreme Court to municipal governments. Her new book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable, details the dozens of ways in which civil rights plaintiffs, no matter their tax bracket, race, or zip code, can be thwarted: from the difficulties of acquiring a lawyer to the controversial doctrine of qualified immunity, designed to protect police officers from personal liability.
Go beyond the episode:
- Joanna Schwartz’s Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable
- ProPublica ran a year-long investigation into America’s largest police department: the NYPD
- Read more about the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Alexander Baxter’s case against the Nashville police, which was thrown out under the doctrine of qualified immunity. Baxter initially represented himself (and handwrote his complaint) but was later defended by the ACLU.
- “Elite” police units, like the SCORPION Unit that killed Tyre Nichols this year in Memphis, are frequently the subject of scandals and complaints
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