Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The New World of Police Accountability

Rate this book
The subject of police accountability includes some of the most important developments in American the control of officer-involved shootings and use of force; citizen complaints and the best procedures for handling them; federal ′pattern or practice′ litigation against police departments; allegations of race discrimination; early intervention systems to monitor officer behavior; and police self-monitoring efforts. The Second Edition of The New World of Police Accountability covers these subjects and more with a sharp and critical perspective. It provides readers with a comprehensive description of the most recent developments and an analysis of what works, what reforms are promising, and what has proven unsuccessful. The book offers detailed coverage of critical incident reporting; pattern analysis of critical incidents; early intervention systems; internal and external review of citizen complaints; and federal consent decrees.

320 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2013

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
3 (21%)
4 stars
4 (28%)
3 stars
6 (42%)
2 stars
1 (7%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 reviews
Profile Image for Spicy T AKA Mr. Tea.
522 reviews55 followers
June 14, 2018
In my pursuit of knowledge regarding police accountability, reading Dr. Samuel Walker is pretty great. Getting to know him is even better. I had the opportunity to read the book above as well as meet him last year at the National Association for the Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). Myself and a few colleagues went out to dinner with him and he was splendid. Sam knows a great deal about these issues and is not put off by the bullshit peddled by politicians or police. He cuts to the core and has an amazing amount of information crammed into his brain. He gave us some wonderful insight into our work to create a Police Accountability Board in Rochester, NY. And while I don't agree with all the angles in his book, I felt like he understood an abolitionist critique and acknowledged it. For those looking for more information or a place to start, this is an invaluable resource. Sam is a fantastic guy.

That all said, I gave his book three stars. As I read it, it felt like a primer on police accountability. I'm a bit beyond the primer state so that may have prejudiced my reading of the book. Sam is not an abolitionist so some of the assumptions he asks you to accept involve leaving the police as an institution completely intact. Some of those assumptions left a sour taste in my mouth.

The book offers some basic themes in what he calls "the New Police Accountability:" Organizational change rather than holding individual officers accountable; data collection and big data; seeing police departments as "learning organizations;" behavior change (through early intervention systems) v. discipline; and lawsuits, consent decrees, and federal intervention.

On the first theme, Walker seems to suggest that holding individual officers accountable for their misconduct is not a strategy for long term change. He may be right. At the same time, he suggests that the police subculture and the policies and procedures of the department are what need to change. Both strategies seem necessary to me. People who have been affected by police violence from individual officers want those officers fired and/or brought up on criminal charges. In Rochester, this rarely happens. The last time must have been in 1993 when five vice cops were put on trial for federal civil rights violations of suspects. Brutal, disgusting stuff.

Anyway, in the margin I wrote, "Both/and?" suggesting that effective police accountability must simultaneously hold officers accountable AND change policy, procedure, and police culture. This changes the power dynamic: the community has a hand in holding officers accountable, through a mechanism like a police accountability board, while also changing the policies of the department. The para-military police hierarchy could be removed from the accountability equation, at least in Rochester, because, quite simply, they fail to hold themselves accountable. One of the recommendations from the Hargrave/Miller report in 2004 (http://rochester.indymedia.org/node/1...) was that officers of supervisory ranks ought to create their own union. As the Rochester Police Locust Club stands, it represents officers from the rank of police officer up to captain. Why would a supervisor hold a fellow union brother accountable? The report in 2004 found that accountability didn't happen.

Sam does offer push back to my distrust that the police can police themselves. Reforms have been made that have made departments and officers more accountable. I just question the pace of that change and the always mounting community trauma of folks who have become the targets of police violence.

Walker considers the idea of suing departments for misconduct as a viable strategy for change. There is a (false?) maxim that says if you sue a department enough, it will change its ways. Sam writes, "There is at best mixed evidence that civil litigation has been successful as a strategy for reforming the police. Academic studies evaluating the impact of strategy have generally found little direct impact on police reform. In 2009 - 2011 Chicago paid out more than $45 million in damage awards because of police abuse. Detroit paid out an average of over $10 million a year for 10 years, but no meaningful effort to improve the police resulted." Consent decrees attached to civil litigation have had more impact, but even consent decrees are not a panacea to police misconduct. I absolutely appreciate his ability to bring evidence to support his claims. It's not hyperbole or opinion.

The book also considers the issue of standardization. Kristian Williams talks about this issue in his book Our Enemies in Blue. With over 15,000 departments, there is no standard definition of use of force. There is no standard for what information is collected and maintained. There are not national reporting requirements. Civilian review boards and internal affairs sections that track police misconduct also have different ways of coding and reporting (or not reporting) aspects of complaints. This makes it incredibly difficult to compare systems of accountability. Not impossible, but without standardization, it becomes challenging to make comparisons that have some meaning.

Something that authors Alex Vitale (The End of Policing) and more recently Andrew Guthrie Ferguson (The Rise of Big Data Policing) have argued is that perhaps solutions to the problems of crime could be solved more effectively without the police. Vitale argues that the mission of police has expanded over the last 40 years to detriment of civil society and democracy and needs to be scaled back. Civilians with expertise in, say, mental health, should be dispatched to problem locations rather than officers with weapons trained to use force when the suspect refuses to comply with their commands. Walker contends that officers would be better suited to handle mental health calls with de-escalation and disengagement training. The problem, as I see it, is that police officers will never be everything to everyone. They will never have all of the expertise that other professional fields offer. Why attempt to train officers on everything when it would make more sense to call a professional not associated with the police? Ferguson asks readers and police administrators in his book to consider the idea that the answer to structural racism and poverty, mental health, childhood behavior, etc., might be best solved not through a police encounter but rather through other community driven solutions linked to bright data. I think Vitale and Ferguson both offer compelling arguments. Yes, officers should absolutely be trained in de-escalation and disengagement, but government/community civilian options also need to be considered. To me, this is one of the shortcomings of Walker's book. But then, that's not what Walker is doing in this book.

Walker talks about internal affairs needing to closely monitor how they take complaints of police misconduct. If those complaints decrease, something is going on that needs to be addressed. This could be the tone, body language, or interest by police investigators in the complainant's story. Police objectivity, legitimacy, and confidence when taking complaints is vital and good police administrators will observe and make changes as necessary to both preserve and expand those qualities. While I believe that there are (probably?) departments and cities who actively believe and attempt to make this happen, in Rochester, NY it does not appear to be the case. I've sat in on Professional Standards Section (PSS, internal affairs) interviews with people making complaints about police misconduct. In one case, the police actively tried to punch holes in a story in order to discredit it. Any doubt on the part of the complainant was honed in on and attacked, thus leading to a full scale attack on the whole complaint. In another case, before the interviews were started, we asked how it was that we would know that everything had been done for a complaint–how was it that we were able to verify that the officers took the complaint seriously and applied as much of their effort to finding out what happened? We were told "it all depends on where you sit in the stadium." We (there were three of us plus the two complainants) were baffled by this statement. The officer was challenged on the statement and he basically said that if you come into this process in an adversarial way you won't like the outcome. If you sit yourself in the stadium and are happy with the effort and support the work of the officers, then you might be happy with the outcome. The whole thing sounded convoluted.

There is just an incredible amount of information packed into this book. One should not set aside one's critical faculties while reading it though. Walker elucidates several important points of police accountability and has evidence to support his conclusions. While I thought it was a bit dry, and I've pointed out some sections I had issues with above, far more sections had check marks next to them indicating my approval or eyebrow raising at a new angle or position I had not considered before. Read Walker, read Davis, read Williams, read read read. Don't stop with this book if you are actively working police accountability issues. It's more of a beginning than an end. I do recommend reading it.
Profile Image for Meghan :).
36 reviews178 followers
June 24, 2023
this was a required textbook for my police accountability and I felt like it was so repetitive. idk how many ways you can talk about the same topic but this book felt like 200 pages to long.
Profile Image for George Lichman.
117 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2019
A thorough examination of police accountability in the 21st century. Though there is no one model, progress has been made in police accountability by following guidelines that improve Policy, Training, Supervision, and Review of police practices. This includes implementing policies on critical incidents/events, e.g., use of force; vehicle pursuits, foot pursuits, crisis intervention, and more. It also includes proper analysis of data to gauge the successes and failures of efforts at accountability, which surprisingly is lacking. It also requires the study of risk management in policing, another concept that is poorly understood and utilized by police leaders.

The author’s point out that the PTSR model and the examples they include are nearly always implemented in consent decrees between police departments and the Department of Justice, and usually with positive results, if after rocky starts. Further discussed is the ability of agencies to maintain the changes once implemented, as they are costly and time consuming.

The book did lack discussion on implementing the new police accountability measures is smaller departments. While big departments are easy to discuss and cite, most of the 18,000 police departments in the US are small to mid-sized yet face similar accountability and liability issues. Some examples or suggestions at how to best apply these ideas, even if only theoretical or only supported by anecdotal evidence, would be helpful to most of the police officers reading the book.
Displaying 1 - 3 of 3 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.