Volume 109
Issue 3
February '21

Creating Space for Community Representation in Police Reform Litigation

Written By: Ayesha Bell Hardaway

Abstract

Input from affected communities is an essential component of the reform process aimed at remedying unconstitutional police practices. Yet, no court has ever granted a community organization’s motion to intervene as a matter of right in police reform, consent decree cases initi-ated by the Department of Justice. Judicial opinions in those cases have truncated the Federal Civil Rule 24 analysis when evaluating the inter-ests of impacted communities. Thus, the most success achieved by a few community organizations has been permissive intervention or amici sta-tus. The models used by the Department of Justice to elicit the community perspective have been frustrating and have failed to incorporate commu-nity voice with equal weight and authority in the process. This Article identifies a uniform standard for courts to utilize in public law cases when community organizations seek intervention and proposes an alter-native approach to the composition and structure of organizations so that the voices and input of those affected by police brutality are included in a meaningful way. The solution proposed by this Article involves applying an adequate representation analysis more suitable for the dynamic relationship between the federal government and marginalized communities. The right to intervene can be attained by those impacted by police violence while alleviating practical and representative concerns articulated by the judiciary in prior reform cases. 

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