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Police killings of George Floyd and at least 1,930 other Black Americans since 2015 amplified a racial reckoning and intensified demands for meaningful, overdue police reform. This Article is the first legal scholarship to argue that Congress and state legislatures across the United States should enact criminal laws creating a law enforcement officer duty to intervene in their colleagues’ misuse of force. These federal and state statutes should be bolstered by law enforcement agencies’ internal policies mandating the same obligation. Introducing criminal liability for inaction could prod officers to stop their peers’ serious misconduct and would promote accountability for those officers who remain bystanders. This Article presents a model statute for this officer duty to intervene and rebuts counterarguments, drawing on a case study of Derek Chauvin murdering Floyd for illustrations.
Zachary D. Kaufman, J.D., Ph.D., is Visiting Associate Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law and Associate Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Houston Law Center, where he is Co-Director of the Criminal Justice Institute. Previously, Professor Kaufman taught at Stanford Law School as a Lecturer and was a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Professor Kaufman received his J.D. from Yale Law School (where he was Editor-in-Chief of the Yale Law & Policy Review), his Ph.D. in International Relations from the University of Oxford (where he was a Marshall Scholar), and his B.A. in Political Science from Yale University (where he was the student body president). Professor Kaufman is currently working on his fourth book, this one on the law and politics of bystanders and upstanders (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press). He is also the author of more than 40 articles and book chapters. His award-winning work is published by or forthcoming in the Boston College Law Review, Southern California Law Review, George Washington Law Review, Harvard International Law Journal, Harvard Journal on Legislation, Yale Journal of International Law, Yale Law & Policy Review, Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal, Stanford Law & Policy Review, Emory International Law Review, Journal of International Criminal Justice, and other journals. A Life Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Professor Kaufman has served in all three branches of the U.S. government, including as a U.S. Supreme Court Fellow and a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
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