Policing in America: Legal reforms are needed to address racial discrimination, unlawful arrest and excessive force

Webinar · 18.04.2023 16:00 - 17:00

Tuesday 18 April 2023, at 16:00-17:00 EEST / 15:00-16:00 CEST

America has a policing problem. The video-recorded murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman in May 2020, sparked unprecedented domestic and international outrage. But equally disturbing incidents of police violence have occurred in the years preceding and since Floyd’s death. A non-government study concluded that police killed at least 1,194 people in 2022—more than any year since 2013. According to the study, Black, Native American, and Pacific Islanders are approximately three times as likely as white people to be killed by police. Moreover, most police killings begin with traffic stops, mental health checks, and other non-violent offenses where no crime was alleged. 

Despite occasional national and local efforts to reform policing practices in ways that reduce crime while improving public trust, the criminal justice and civil litigation systems continue to protect law enforcement agencies and individual police officers in too many instances where abusive, even deadly conduct is demonstrated or credibly alleged. In her acclaimed recent book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable, Professor Joanna Schwartz uses real-life cases of victims of police violence to explain how and why judicial decision-making and legislative stalemate have made it so difficult to deter and obtain redress for such conduct, while offering pragmatic ideas for reform.

 As Americans debate policing, the justice system and, more generally, the “rule of law” ethos in the coming months and years—especially as the November 2024 elections approach—this episode of Transatlantic Currents is an opportunity for officials and scholars within and beyond the Finnish legal community to engage one of the foremost U.S. experts on these topics.


Opening words

Maria Lindén

Research Fellow

Maria Lindén is a Research Fellow at the Center on US Politics and Power of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs. She is also a PhD student at the University of Tampere, the author of the narrative non-fiction book Trumpin kansa (Trump’s People, published by Into Kustannus, 2020) and a former news journalist. Her main area of expertise is the United States’ domestic politics, and her current research focuses on the crisis of liberal democracy in the present-day United States, especially electoral manipulation. She lived in Boston from 2015 to 2019, working as a freelance journalist covering American politics for the Finnish News Agency and other Finnish media outlets.


Joanna Schwartz

Professor of Law, University of California

Joanna Schwartz is a professor of law at UCLA, where she teaches civil procedure and courses on police accountability and public interest lawyering. Her writing, commentary, and research about police misconduct, qualified immunity, indemnification, and local government budgeting have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, CNN, NPR, and elsewhere. Her research has been quoted and cited by United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and more than two dozen state supreme courts, federal circuit courts, and federal district courts.


Leo Michel

Non-Resident Fellow, FIIA

Leo Michel is Non-Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. His previous government positions included: Distinguished Research Fellow at the Institute for National Strategic Studies; Director for NATO Policy and Director for Non-Nuclear Arms Control in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Deputy U.S. Representative to the U.S.-Russia Bilateral Consultative Commission as well as other government positions. Michel holds a M.A. from Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies and a B.A. from Princeton University.