Rachel Harmon

  • Harrison Robertson Professor of Law
  • Class of 1957 Research Professor of Law
  • Director, Center for Criminal Justice

Rachel Harmon is a leading scholar on policing and the laws that regulate police behavior. Her new casebook, “The Law of the Police” (2021), is the first resource for students and others seeking to understand and evaluate how American law governs police interactions with the public. Her scholarship on policing has appeared in the New York University, Michigan and Stanford law reviews, among others.

At UVA Law, she directs the Center for Criminal Justice, and teaches in the areas of criminal law and procedure, policing and civil rights. She is a member of the American Law Institute and serves as an associate reporter for ALI’s project on Principles of the Law of Policing. She advises nonprofits and government actors on issues of policing and the law, and in the fall of 2017, served as a law enforcement expert for the “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia.”

Harmon moved into academia in 2006 after spending eight years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. At the Civil Rights Division, Harmon investigated and prosecuted civil rights crimes nationwide, including hate crimes and cases of excessive force and sexual violence by police officers and other government officials. Harmon attended Yale Law School after receiving two master’s degrees with distinction from the London School of Economics as a British Marshall Scholar. After law school, she clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Scholarship Profile: Promoting Policing at Its Best (Virginia Journal 2012)


  • J.D.
    Yale Law School
  • M.Sc.
    London School of Economics
  • M.Sc.
    London School of Economics
  • B.S.
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology


The Law of the Police, Wolters Kluwer (2021).

Book Chapters

The Future of Police Reform (with Scott Harman-Heath), in Handbook of Issues in Criminal Justice Reform in the United States, Springer, 97–110 (1 ed. 2021).
Policing, Protesting, and the Insignificance of Hostile Audiences, in The Perilous Public Square: Structural Threats to Free Expression Today, Columbia University Press, 96- (2020).
Justifying Police Practices: The Example of Arrests, in The Cambridge Handbook of Policing in the United States, Cambridge University Press, 163–177 (2019).
Legal Remedies for Police Misconduct, in Reforming Criminal Justice, Academy for Justice, 27–50 (2017).
Legal Control of the Police, in Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Springer Reference, 2898–2906 (2014).

Articles & Reviews

Arrests: What Are They Good For?, 18 Revista Direito Público 27–45 (2021).
Evaluating and Improving Structural Reform in Police Departments, 16 Criminology & Public Policy 617–627 (2017).
Proactive Policing and the Legacy of Terry (with Andrew Manns), 15 Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law 49–71 (2017).
Reconsidering Criminal Procedure: Teaching the Law of the Police, 60 St. Louis University Law Journal 391–411 (2016).
Why Arrest?, 115 Michigan Law Review 307–364 (2016).
Federal Programs and the Real Costs of Policing, 90 NYU Law Review 870–960 (2015).
Why Do We (Still) Lack Data on Policing?, 96 Marquette Law Review 1119–1146 (2013).
Limited Leverage: Federal Remedies and Policing Reform, 32 St. Louis University Public Law Review 33–56 (2012).
The Problem of Policing, 110 Michigan Law Review 761–817 (2012).
Promoting Civil Rights Through Proactive Policing Reform, 62 Stanford Law Review 1–68 (2009).
When Is Police Violence Justified?, 102 Northwestern University Law Review 1119–1187 (2008).

Op-Eds, Blogs, Shorter Works

What Biden Can Do About Bad Policing (with Barry Friedman), Los Angeles Times (February 15, 2021).
Policing Priorities for the New Administration (with Barry Friedman), NYU School of Law Policing Project & UVA Law Center for Criminal Justice (December, 2020).
Changing the Law to Change Policing: First Steps (with Barry Friedman et al.), NYU School of Law Policing Project (June, 2020).
Policing, Protesting, and the Insignificance of Hostile Audiences, Knight First Amendment Institute (November 2, 2017).
Trump’s Remarks To Police Violate His Oath of Office, The Marshall Project (August 2, 2017).

Current Courses

All Courses

Criminal Law
Criminal Investigation
The Supreme Court and Criminal Law
Police Misconduct




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