This Article empirically evaluates the procedural protections given to police officers facing disciplinary interrogations about alleged misconduct. It demonstrates that state laws and collective bargaining agreements have insulated many police officers from the most successful interrogation techniques.
The first part of this Article builds on previous studies by analyzing a dataset of police union contracts and state laws that govern the working conditions in a substantial cross section of large and midsized American police departments. Many of these police departments provide officers with hours or even days of advanced notice before a disciplinary interrogation. An even larger percentage of these police departments require internal investigators to provide officers with copies of incriminating evidence before any interrogation. These protections exist in departments of all sizes, regardless of geographical location.
The second part of this Article relies on a national survey of American law enforcement leaders to evaluate whether these regulations frustrate officer accountability efforts. The overwhelming majority of the survey respondents claimed that these interrogation regulations substantially burden legitimate investigations into officer behavior. Virtually all survey respondents agreed that these protections do little to reduce the likelihood of false confessions.
Combined, this data paints a troubling picture of the internal procedures used to investigate and respond to officer misconduct. This data suggests that states and municipalities have given police officers procedural protections designed to thwart internal investigations, thereby limiting officer accountability. This Article concludes by offering normative recommendations on how communities can reform interrogations of police officers so as to balance the community interest in accountability with officers' interests in due process.
Stephen Rushin, Police Disciplinary Appeals, 167 U. Pa. L. Rev. 545 (2019).