Police Accountability


Sam Walker is the author of 14 books on policing, criminal justice policy, and civil liberties, which have appeared in a total of 36 different editions.

His most recent book on policing, co-authored with Carol Archbold, is the 2nd ed. of The New World of Police Accountability (Sage 2014). NWOPACanada
The New World of Police Accountability

For the 1st ed. of the book, click here:  The New World of Police Accountability (Sage, 2005).

More Books by Samuel Walker

You can buy these books on Amazon, but Sam prefers that you order them through your local independent book store. Amazon is engaging in predatory practices that threaten the survival of independent book stores. (Check the news stories for this issue.) But if you must:   Samuel Walker’s Amazon.com page.


Walker Report Blasts Baltimore Police Union Contract

In a report issued in May 2015, Sam Walker criticized provisions of the Baltimore police union contract (and the Maryland Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights) because of provisi0ns that impede the effective investigation and discipline of police officers. The most offensive provision is a 10-day waiting period before an officer suspected of misconduct can be interviewed by department investigators. Read the report: BALTIMORE POLICE UNION CONTRACTFinal

Reforming the Customs and Border Protection Agency 

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency has been embroiled in controversy regarding pervasive human rights violations against suspected illegal immigrants on the southwest border of the U.S. The violations include unjustified shootings of people, pervasive use of excessive physical force, denial of adequate food and water, and other abuses.

Sam Walker has written a report on Changing the Culture of the Customs and Border Protection: Lessons from Recent Developments in Municipal Police Accountability in the U.S. (July 2014). The report argues that the set of reforms that represent the “best practices” in policing in the U.S. have direct applicability to the CBP and should be adopted. Read the report: Border

Institutionalizing Police Accountability Reforms

Institutionalizing police accountability reforms, and ensuring their continuity, is a major challenge in American policing. There is a long history of important police reforms simply fading away. Read Sam Walker’s article, Instituitionalizing Police Accountability Reforms,” in the St. Louis University Public Law Review (2012):  InstitionalizingReforms

“Policing the Police” article published by U.S. State Department

As part of its work to promote democracy around the world, the U.S. State Department provides assistance to emerging democracies on policing issues. The April 2010 issue of EJournalUSA is devoted to Ethical and Effective Policing. It contains several articles by noted police experts, including “Policing the Police” by Samuel Walker and Adnrea Lorenz. The article describes how the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department responded effectively to the 1991 Rodney King beating at the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department across town. Read the article:  StateDepartment


Driving While Female: A National Problem in Police MisconductSam Walker is the author of numerous reports and articles on police accountability, citizen oversight of the police, and other aspects of criminal justice policy.

Click for reports and articles

Frontier Issue in Police Reform:  Making Police Reforms Endure

Trent Ikerd and Samuel Walker,
Making Police Reforms Endure: The Keys for Success (Washington, DC: Department of Justice, 2010).

Making Police Reforms Endure: The Keys for SuccessPolicing has a long history of reforms that work in the short run, but then just fade away. What are the keys to institutionalizing them in a department and making reform endure?

Available on line.

Contact information for first author, Trent Ikerd:





Sam Walker delivered the Geoge Beto Lecture at Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, on February 15, 2011. The lecture, “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: Recent Developments in Police Accountability,” is available on line.

View the video: http://www.betochair.com/media/index.php?mode=view&item=47

[It may work best if you download the video, per their instructions, and view it on RealPlayer]



 Herman Goldstein, retired Professor at the University of WisconsinLaw School, is recognized as the founder of Problem-Oriented Policing.

View Sam Walker’s interview with Professor Goldstein on the web site of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing:


The interview covers Goldstein’s career from the 1950s through to the present, including his pioneering work with the Bar Foundation

Survey and his work with the Chicago Police Department in the 1960s.

Learn about the origins of problem-oriented policing from its founder.

For information and resources about POP, go to the Center’s web site:


Innovations in Police Accountability

more Innovations

More on Police Accountability


  • What is citizen oversight of the police?
  • What are the basic models of oversight?
  • Is citizen oversight effective?

Police Accountability: The Role of Citizen Oversight

learn more


Data collection on police traffic stops is a popular reform for controlling racial profiling.

Read why Internal Benchmarking is likely to be a more effective approach.

Read more about race, ethnicity, and criminal justice.

Read Walker’s article on the problems with traffic stop data collection.

learn more


View a list of Police Accountability Organizations.

Samuel Walker in the Media

more In the Media stories

Special Feature:
Developments in New Orleans


In late January 2013 the City of New Orleans filed a motion with the District Court asking to withdraw from the Consent Decree over the police department which it had previously signed. The attempt to withdraw is entangled with a separate DOJ suit against the New Orleans Parish Prison over unconstitutional conditions, which was nearing an agreement and consent decree. The withdrawal request threated to undermine both efforts to reform the police department and the jail. On February 8th, however, the District Court denied the city’s request to withdraw. Read about the city’s request to withdrawNOPD2013CityAsksWithdrawal   Read about the Judge’s DenialNOPD2013CourtDenies2   Read the Court’s DecisionNOPD2013CourtOrderDenial  Read the New York Times story:  NOPD2013NYTimes



On July 24, 2012 the U.S. Justice Department and the City of New Orleans agreed to a consent decree mandating sweeping reforms in the New Orleans Police Department. The decree goes much further than previous consent decrees in terms of requirements related to community involvement in the reform process. Read the Consent DecreeNewOrlFederal Consent Decree 


The U.S. Justice Department on March 17, 2011 issued a blistering report on the New Orleans Police Department, charging it with systematic abuses related to use of force, discrimination in arrests, and a general lack of internal accountability. Read the DOJ report:  NOPDDOJReport And read the New Orleans Times Picayune story on the report:  TimesPDOJReport


PBS Frontline / Propubilca documentary, “Law and Disorder”

On August 25, 2010, Frontline broadcast a documentary on police shootings of citizens at the time of Hurricane Katrina. The documentary was based on intestigative reporting by reporters from Propublica and the New Orleans Times-Picayune. View the program


What a Consent Decree Would and Would Not Accomplish in New Orleans

Read Sam Walker’s Op-Ed piece in the New Orleans Times-Picayune: NewOrleans Op Ed


Suprintendent Ronal Serpas’ 65-point Plan for Rebuilding the New Orleans Police Department

Read the Plan: NOPDRebuilding

Read the Colorlines article on the Rebuilding Plan: ColorlinesNOPD


NOPD Signs MOU with NO Independent Police Monitor (IPM)

On November 10, 2010, the New Orleans Police Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the city’s Inedpendent POlice Monitor (IPM). The MOU spells out the role of the IPM in conducting oversight of the NOPD and the responsibilities of both parties. This agreement is believed to be the first such formal arrangment ever between a police department and an external oversight agency. There are about a dozen auditor/monitor model oversight agencies in the U.S. (Go to the Citizen Oversight page of this web site for information on the auditor/monitor model. Also, go the the Books page for Sam Walker’s two books on the auditor/monitor model.)

Read the MOU: NOMonitorMOU

Past Stories on the Katrina Shootings.

Reporters Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, and A.C. Thompson of Propublica have published numerous stories on the Katrina shootings and related developments in New Orleans. Read their stories at Propublica


Breaking News. For breaking news about the New Orleans police by reporters Laura Maggi and Brendan McCarthy, go to the New Orleans Times Picayune: http://www.nola.com/



DOJ Investigation. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the NOPD and reportedly will seek a Consent Decree mandating reforms of the department. What is a Consent Decree? How have they worked in other law enforcement agencies? Go to the Federal Pattern or Practice Litigation page of this web site for information.

Early Intervention System. Superintendent Serpas’ 65-point Rebuidling Plan calls for an Early Warning/Intervention System. What is an EIS? How does it work? What is it designed to accomplish? Go to the Early Intervention System page of this web site for information.

Read two October 2010 Times Picayune stories on an Early Intervention system for the NOPD. One story focuses on an officer who was not disciplined despite being involved in 15 shooting incidents and having 50 citizen complaints. Read: NewOrlOct23 and NewOrlOct24

more on New Orleans

Accountability Issues


The U.S. Department of Justice is authorized to sue local law enforcement agencies where there is a “pattern or practice” of violating citizens rights. These are civil suits, designed to change the organization, and not criminal investigations of individual organizations.

DOJ has reached consent decrees or memoranda of agreement (MOA) with several law enforcement agencies.


DOJ Investigations, 2014-2015


“Searing” Findings Letter on the Ferguson, Missouri, Police Department

Read the Findings report on Ferguson: ferguson_DOJ Findings


Read the December 2014 DOJ Findings Letter on the Cleveland, Ohio, Police

Read the Findings report on Cleveland: ClevelandDOJFindings


Read the 2014 DOJ Findings Letter and 2014 Settlement Agreement on the Albuquerque, New Mexico, Police Department

The Findings letter: AlbqDOJFindings

The Settlement Agreement:  AlbqDOJSettlement


Read the 2014 DOJ Findings Letter on the Newark, New Jersey, Police Department

The DOJ Findings Letter: newark_findings_7-22-14


2013 Developments


PERF Issues Major Report on Lessons Learned from Civil Rights Investigations of Local Police

The Police Executive Research Forum (PEFR) published a major report on the “lessons learned” from federal investigations of local police departments for violations of constitutional rights. The report is based on a PERF conference in Washington, DC in October 2012. One of the more important aspects of the report are the comments by police chiefs whose departments had been the subject of Justice Department investigations where they say that the reforms they were required to implement have improved their departments. Read the PERF reportPERFConsent Decree


DOJ Opens Investigation of the Cleveland, Ohio Police Department: 

Read the DOJ Press Release:  CleveDOJPreeR      Read the News Story: CleveDOJ.


2012 Developments

The year 2012 was a period of significant developments in federal pattern or practice litigation, with settlements in Seattle, Portland, and Puerto Rico.

Settlement Agreement Over the Puerto Rico Police

In December 2012 the Justice Department reached a settlement agreement mandating reforms of the Peurto Rico Police. Read the agreement:  PRSettlementagreement_12-21-12     For background, read the ACLU’s blistering report on the Puerto Rico police, Island of ImpunityPRicoislandofimpunity_20120619

Portland Settlement

In September 2012 the Justice Department reached a settlement with the Portland, Oregon police department focusing on its handling of people with mental health issues.  Although focusing specifically on mental health issues, the required reforms regarding use of force are relevant to all use of force situations. Read the settlementPortlandDOJSettlement

Seattle – DOJ Reach Settlement Agreement

On July 27, 2012. the City of Seattle and the Justice Department reached a settlement agreement regarding the Seattle Police Department. Read the Settlement Agreement. SeattleSettlement7-27-12 The City and DOJ also agreed to a Memorandum of Understanding regarding a Community Police Commission. Read the MOU:  SeattleMou_7-27-12   Scroll down for earlier Seattle developments.


DOJ Sues “Sheriff Joe” in Maricopa County, AZ

In May 2012 the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department filed suit against the Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff’s Department. The suit was filed after settlement negotiations broke down over the refusal of  Sheriff Joe Arpaio to agree to a court appointed monitor in an out of court settlement (similar to the settlements with court appointed monitors in all but one other DOJ pattern or practice cases). Read the Justice Department complaintMaricopaCountyComplaint

2011 Developments !

In December 2011 the Justice Department issued a blisterting report on the Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriffs Department. The department is run by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been the center of controversy of immigration enforcement practices and other issues for years. The DOJ report found a pattern of unconstitutional policing, including discriminatory stops and arrests, use of force, and failure to provide for persons with Limited English Proficiency. Read the DOJ report: DOJMaricopaCounty

DOJ also issued an investigative report on the Seattle Police Department, finding serious problems with how the department investigates use of force incidents, including not adequately using its existing accountability office, the OPA. Read the Seattle Letter:  DOJSeattleLetter   DOJ’s investigation resulted in a separate report critical of how the department applies the Garrity rule when investigation officers. Read the Garrity letterDOJSeattleGarrity


Seattle Update: In April 2012 the mayor of Seattle issued a 22 page plan for improving the Seattle Police Department, SPD 20/20: A Vision for the Future. The plan covers a wide range of issues, including better management of public demonstrations, reforms to end biased policing, improving the department’s early intervention system, and many others. Read the 20/20 planSeattlePD2020Plan


On the earlier work of the DOJ Special Litigation Section, read the Consent Decrees regarding the LAPD Consent  Decree, and Pittsburgh Consent Decree. The settlement in Cincinnati involved an MOA with the Justice Department MOA and a Collaborative Agreement Collaborative with the ACLU and other community groups.


Impact. Are “pattern or practice” suits an effective police accountability tool?

Read Sam Walker and Morgan Macdonald’s article in the George Mason University Civil Rights Law Journal (2009).

Read about sustaining reform in the New Jersey State Police.


Read the ACLU Petition requesting a federal investigation of the Newark, NJ police: NewarkPetition. Read the story on the opening of a DOJ investigation on May 9, 2011 in response to the ACLU petition: NewarkDOJInvestig

Read the Salon.com (May 30, 2011) article on the revival of DOJ patttern or practice litigation:  DOJPattern&Practices2011

Go to: “In the Media” on the home page for news stories about the current DOJ investigation of the New Orleans Police Department.

learn more about federal pattern or practice litigation



Early Intervention Systems for Law Enforcement AgenciesEarly intervention systems (EIS) are an important new police accountability tool.

  • What is an EIS?
  • How does it work?

Read Sam Walker’s three reports on EIS for the U.S. Justice Department.

learn more about early intervention systems



Is mediation an effective way to handle citizen complaints against police officers?

Read Walker’s report for the Department of Justice.

learn more about mediation



Experts agree that police unions have a major impact on policing. Many argue that police union contracts and state police officers’s bill of rights laws are a major obstacle to accountability.

Read Kevin Keenan and Sam Walker’s Boston University Public Interest Law Review article on the content of state police officers’ bill of rights laws: POBillsofRights


Despite their importance to policing, police unions have been neglected by criminal justice scholars.

Read Sam Walker’s article on the neglect of police unions: policeunions

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