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Police Accountability

Police should act with reverence for the lives, and dignity, and rights of all persons, regardless of race, ethnicity, identity, or economic status, and they should be held responsible when they fall short of these ideals.

Laws and policies should not allow a police officer to harm or kill a person, or violate their rights, with impunity. Yet a patchwork of outdated policies allow officers to use force, even lethal force, in instances where there is no necessity. Burdensome complaint processes discourage harmed persons from coming forward, and officers who do have records of serious misconduct are able to move from one department to another. Meanwhile, a lack of publicly available data makes it difficult for community members and policymakers to have meaningful insight into departments’ use of force records, traffic stops, and misconduct complaints.

We aim to increase the accountability of law enforcement to their communities, particularly Black, Brown and Indigenous people, through policy changes that reduce or eliminate structural barriers to reform. Our goals are to strengthen the regulation of law enforcement through use of force standards, officer certification and decertification standards, and data reporting and transparency requirements. We also aim to remove provisions found in collective bargaining agreements and law enforcement officer bills of rights that inhibit accountability. We will work to better understand the relationship between misconduct and law and policy, and support research to close those gaps; develop a network of champions for reform in state legislatures; engage with policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels; and help pilot, evaluate and scale innovations that strengthen accountability and transparency.

Image: Police officers in riot gear approach demonstrators Sept. 21, 2016 in downtown Charlotte, N.C. Protests began there in response to the fatal shooting of 43-year-old Keith Lamont Scott at an apartment complex near UNC Charlotte. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images file)

3.49X
More likely that an unarmed Black man will be shot by police than an unarmed white man Source
48%
Proportion of reviewed police union contracts that mandate the removal of discipline records over time Source
30%
Proportion of residents in surveyed low-income communities who believe police respect people’s rights Source

Grants

Arnold Ventures funds projects to understand problems and identify policy solutions.

Map of the U.S. made of Arnold Ventures icons