Arrests: What Are They Good For?




Even police critics often assume that arrests are essential to policing. This Article challenges that assumption and argues that arrests should be curtailed. Arrests harm individuals, families, and communities. Given their costs, arrests should be used only when they serve an important state interest. Yet, arrests often happen even when no such interest exists. In United States, constitutional law acts as the primary legal constraint on arrests. But it does not ensure that the state has a reason to make an arrest – as opposed to starting the criminal process in another way. Although the police carry out millions of arrests to start the criminal process, to maintain order, to collect evidence, and to deter crime, arrests are usually unnecessary for these purposes. In most cases, reasonable, less intrusive, alternative means exist for achieving these ends, even for some serious crimes. Because the state can achieve its law enforcement objectives without so many arrests, police departments should conduct far fewer arrests than they currently do, and states should restrict the statutory authority to arrest accordingly. Though there are risks to reducing arrests, those risks are less problematic than continuing this form of widespread and unnecessary state coercion.


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Biografia do Autor

Rachel Harmon, University of Virginia School of Law

Rachel Harmon is a leading scholar on policing and the laws that regulate police behavior. Her new casebook, “The Law of the Police” (2021), is the first resource for students and others seeking to understand and evaluate how American law governs police interactions with the public. Her scholarship on policing has appeared in the New York University, Michigan and Stanford law reviews, among others. At UVA Law, she directs the Center for Criminal Justice, and teaches in the areas of criminal law and procedure, policing and civil rights. She is a member of the American Law Institute and serves as an associate reporter for ALI’s project on Principles of the Law of Policing. She advises nonprofits and government actors on issues of policing and the law, and in the fall of 2017, served as a law enforcement expert for the “Independent Review of the 2017 Protest Events in Charlottesville, Virginia”. Harmon moved into academia in 2006 after spending eight years as a federal prosecutor in the U.S. Depart-ment of Justice’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. At the Civil Rights Division, Harmon investigated and prosecuted civil rights crimes nationwide, including hate crimes and cases of excessive force and sexual violence by police officers and other government officials. Harmon attended Yale Law School after receiving two master’s degrees with distinction from the London School of Economics as a British Marshall Scholar. After law school, she clerked for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court.




Como Citar

Harmon, R. (2021). Arrests: What Are They Good For?. Direito Público, 18(99).