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The Law of the Police, Second Edition

  • Rachel Harmon
Series / Aspen Casebook Series
Teaching Materials
Table of contents

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The Law of the Police, Second Edition provides materials and analysis for law school classes on policing and the law. It offers a resource for students and others seeking to understand and evaluate how American law governs police interactions with the public. The book provides primary materials, including cases, statutes, and departmental policies, and commentary and questions designed to help readers explore policing practices; the law that governs them; and the law’s consequences for the costs, benefits, fairness, and accountability of policing. Among other issues, the notes and questions encourage readers to consider the form and content of the law; how it might change; who is making it; and how the law affects policing. Part I introduces local policing—its history, its goals, and its problems; Part II considers the law that regulates criminal investigations; Part III addresses the law that governs street policing; and Part IV looks at policing’s legal remedies and reforms.

New to the Second Edition:
  • New sections and materials on no-knock warrants, facial recognition technology, state regulation of pedestrian stops, alternatives to police-initiated traffic stops, state laws granting arrest authority, retaliatory arrest claims, state qualified immunity reform, private civil settlements for police reform, and community strategies to limit the scope of policing.
  • New notes and materials on the role of prosecutors in shaping police conduct, the Second Amendment, the use of race in policing, policing homelessness, the impact of police unions and collective bargaining, and the Biden Administration’s pattern-or-practice suits.
  • A recent federal indictment charging an officer with constitutionally excessive force.
  • Updates to laws and notes to reflect new data, laws, and criminological and legal research.
  • Additional examples of controversial police encounters to illustrate legal issues and concepts.
Benefits for instructors and students:
  • Chapters and notes designed to allow flexibility—allow professors to assign materials selectively according to the needs of the course. As a result, the casebook can serve as materials for a range of lecture and discussion-based courses on the law regulating police conduct; on legal remedies and reforms for problems in policing; or on more specific topics, such as the use of force or constitutional rules governing police conduct.
  • Descriptions of controversial policing encounters and links to and discussion of videos of such incidents—help students practice applying the law, consider its policy implications, and gain awareness of contemporary controversies on policing.
  • Diverse primary materials, including federal and state cases and statutes and police department policies—provide a broad exposure to the types of law that govern public policing.
  • Photos, links to videos, protest art, and charts—pique student interest, enable richer discussions, and provide additional context for legal materials in the book.
  • Integration of scholarly work on policing, on the law, and on the impact of police practices—enables students to make more sophisticated assessments of the law.
  • Notes and questions—designed to (a) highlight alternative strategies lawyers might use to change the law, and (b) raise comparative institutional questions about who is best suited to regulate the police.
  • Discussion of legal topics relevant to contemporary discussions of policing—studied nowhere else in the law school curriculum.
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About the authors
Rachel Harmon
Director, Center for Criminal Justice
University of Virginia School of Law

Rachel Harmon is a professor and directs the Center for Criminal Justice at the University of Virginia law school. As a leading scholar on policing and the law, she frequently advises government actors and nonprofits. In 2017, she served as an expert for the independent after-action review of the Summer of Hate protests in Charlottesville, Virginia.Before teaching, Harmon spent eight years as a prosecutor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, where she handled civil rights crimes nationwide, including hate crimes and excessive force and sexual violence by police officers and other officials.Harmon received her B.S. from MIT, two masters’ degrees from the London School of Economics, and her law degree from Yale Law School. She clerked for U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Guido Calabresi and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

Product Information
Second Edition
Publication date
Copyright Year
Connected eBook + Hardcover
Connected eBook (Digital Only)
Policing , Criminal Procedure , Criminal Law, Elective
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