Thursday, December 10, 2020
Anthony O'Rourke, Rick Su and Guyora Binder (University at Buffalo Law School, University of North Carolina School of Law and University at Buffalo Law School) has posted Disbanding Police Agencies (121 Columbia Law Review (2021, Forthcoming)) on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
Since the killing of George Floyd, a national consensus has emerged that reforms are needed to prevent discriminatory and violent policing. Calls to defund and abolish the police have provoked pushback, but several cities are considering disbanding or reducing their police forces. This Essay assesses disbanding as a reform strategy, from a democratic and institutionalist perspective. Should localities disband their police forces? One reason to do so is that discriminatory police departments are often too insulated from democratic oversight to be reformed. But can localities succeed in disbanding and replacing their forces with something better? Unfortunately, the structural entrenchment of sheriffs’ offices and municipal police forces insulate them against such attacks as well. To challenge police power, localities may have to disband, and to disband, localities may have to alter the legal structure of state and local government. Reformers must use rare moments of mobilization like this one to overcome the misguided efforts of past reformers to lock in their victories. Successful reformers can best avoid repeating such mistakes by trusting in the democratic experiment, and concentrating supervision of law enforcement at one level, the most local.