Democratic Accountability and Policing

Maria Ponomarenko

Adjunct Professor of Law and Deputy Director of the Policing Project,
New York University and Barry Friedman,
Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law,
Affiliated Professor of Politics, and Director of the Policing Project,
New York University,
Reforming Criminal Justice Vol. 2

Often when people talk about accountability in policing, they are focused on “back-end” accountability, which kicks in after something has gone wrong. What is needed in policing is accountability on the “front end”—which means that the public gets to have a say in what the rules for policing should be in the first place. Having front-end, democratic rules for policing helps to ensure that policing practices are consistent with community values and expectations, and can help build trust and legitimacy between the community and the police. This chapter makes the case for front-end accountability in policing, acknowledges some of the challenges to doing so, and highlights some possible models for bringing this sort of accountability about.