This Issue Brief summarizes some of the traditional mechanisms for holding police accountable for misconduct, offers a critique of each, and ends with suggestions for the future of police accountability. Part I focuses on some of the legal and structural impediments to police accountability including the inherent conflicts of interest that frequently prevent local prosecutors from prosecuting police officers accused of using excessive force. Part I also discusses how the doctrine of qualified immunity shields officers from civil liability when a suspect is harmed or dies in police custody. Part II explores how the Department of Justice (DOJ) has failed to properly leverage its authority to investigate patterns or practices of unconstitutional policing to increase police accountability. Part III discusses potential solutions, including the impact police-worn body cameras, prosecutorial independence, and increased civil oversight may have on police accountability.

This abstract has been adapted from the author's introduction.

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Information

11 Advance: The Journal of the Issue Briefs of the American Constitution Society for Law and Policy 23-43 (2017)