The Future of Police Reform
UVA Law Faculty Affiliations
The future of police reform might be best predicted by looking to the recent past, where we find countless proposals for change. But merely looking at lists of suggested reforms is not enough. This chapter considers apparent trends over the past decade in the objectives, methods, and actors targeted—the why, how, and who of reform calls—as a signal of the direction of reform efforts to come. It also examines some important issues reformers must address in answering each of these questions. With respect to the why of reform, recent efforts have emphasized addressing racial injustice, making policing more democratically responsive, and reducing harm regardless whether it is lawfully imposed, over other reform objectives. With respect to the how of reform, critics have sought more coercive means of spurring police departments to change practices, have looked to technologies of accountability, and have worked to reduce the scope of policing by diminishing its power and resources and expanding alternative means of generating public safety. With respect to the who of reform, reformers increasingly target state (rather than federal) actors and legislatures (rather than courts) to reshape policing. These trends are likely to continue, and the next decade of police reform will likely reflect their impact.