Policing in America: Issues in Accountability

Controversies arising from actual and perceived misconduct by police have persisted in many cities over the years ¿ Los Angeles, New York, Miami, to cite a few. The exceptional powers society vests in police officers put law enforcement agents in a unique position among public employees in terms of the potential fallout from their actions. Public outcry over police misconduct often focuses on issues of use of force (especially deadly force), corruption, and racial bias. Recent events in Chicago ¿ a jury¿s finding that officers brutalized a citizen, with damages of $4,000,000; a videotape of 15 or more officers searching many people inside a tavern when official reports stated just two officers on the scene searched and arrested one person outside the tavern ¿ highlight how such misconduct can undermine public perception of police credibility. Traditionally, there have been three major (and not mutually exclusive) means by which police officers and their employers can be held accountable for their actions: a) Criminal prosecution b) Civil litigation, and c) Employment disciplinary proceedings. The course objective is to examine how these different means function, and to assess the characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses of these approaches as means of controlling police misconduct. The roles of key participants in these processes ¿ police management, elected local officials, police unions, activist groups, local trial bar, etc. ¿ will all be examined. Emerging trends will also be examined, including USDOJ consent decrees to monitor agency performance, U.S. Supreme Court decisions on police pursuits, and recent state high court decisions restricting public access to information on police misconduct. The class will be conducted as a seminar. The first several sessions will be used to present and discuss background information on policing in general, so as to better understand the context in which allegations of misconduct may arise. Each student will be expected to select a specific topic for further research. Students will be evaluated on the basis of class participation, in-class oral presentation of their research, and a written research paper. This is a two credit course. Students may exercise the option of receiving three credits by submitting an initial draft for critical review, and then a revised draft. The instructor, Mark Iris, holds a Ph.D. from Northwestern. He is a Lecturer in the Political Science Department, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in law and politics. For twenty-one years, he was Executive Director of the City of Chicago Police Board, an administrative agency empowered to conduct quasi-judicial disciplinary hearings in cases of Chicago Police accused of misconduct. Questions? Please contact

Catalog Number: CONPUB 684
Practice Areas: Administrative Law & GovtConstitutional Law & ProcedureCriminal Law Practice Area
Additional Course Information: 1 Draft degree req may be met with class ,  3 draft degree req may be met with class ,  Perspective Elective

Course History

Spring 2012
Title: Policing in America
Faculty: Iris, Mark
Section: 1     Type: Seminar     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 15     Actual: 0

Spring 2011
Title: Policing in America: Issues in Accountability
Faculty: Iris, Mark
Section: 1     Type: Seminar     Credits: 3.0
Capacity: 12     Actual: 15