In recent years, police killings have repeatedly turned the nation’s attention to the problem of police brutality and widespread failures to hold police accountable for their misconduct. For nearly a decade — through the Obama Administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, abolitionists’ calls to defund the police, the recent effort in Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, and many state and local reforms — government officials, scholars, community leaders, and activists have debated and advocated for a wide range of proposals to curb police violence and strengthen accountability. Yet, even after years of focused attention and concern, in 2022 the number of police killings in the United States was higher than any other year in the past decade. In recent weeks, the killing of Tyre Nichols has once again raised questions about the measures that are needed to reduce police violence and hold police officers accountable.
To address these important questions, we have invited a group of panelists to discuss with Joanna Schwartz her much-anticipated and compelling new book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable (Penguin Random House 2023), examining the ways in which the legal system protects police at every turn. In addition to her sobering critique of judicial doctrines like qualified immunity that have for decades undermined accountability, Schwartz offers and defends a clear roadmap for future reforms.