Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly


Zach Newman


This note discusses race, policing, the use of fatal force, and the Black Lives Matter movement, contextualizing it within the "prison industrial complex," the "New Jim Crow," the hegemony of colorblindness and postracialism, and jurisprudential limitations placed on Equal Protection. It argues that narrow legal reforms of policing, like body cameras or increased training, cannot be conceived of as complete solutions. Although these reforms are important, they must be connected to critiques of and actions against overarching structures of stratification, subordination, and social control in advanced capitalism. Contemporary policing is one manifestation of a deeply flawed and racialized criminal punishment system defined by over-incarceration, over-policing, and criminalization. Thus, this note contends that increased accountability, transparency, and community control of police must be combined with massive changes in the criminal punishment system overall and a legal and cultural reconceptualization of racism in the present day. Ultimately, the rebellions that swept the country over the last few years are indeed about individual deaths at the hands of police but are also about social, economic, and racial justice more broadly. This issue of police violence is about political economy, the maldistribution of resources, and policing as containment and occupation . Until this is acknowledged, narrow legal reforms of policing will be largely meaningless.