Justice, Arrested

Joanna Schwartz on the difficulty of holding the police accountable

Thomas Hawk/Flickr
Thomas Hawk/Flickr

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.

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Stephanie Bastek is the senior editor of the Scholar and the producer/host of the Smarty Pants podcast.


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