Does Criminal Punishment of Police Contribute or Distract from Societal Reckonings with Racism?


While many celebrated Derek Chauvin?s conviction for the murder of George Floyd as a sign of progress, others worried that it would distract from the systemic change needed to combat racism in policing and put the focus instead on a few ?bad apples.? Such considerations about criminal punishment are familiar to transitional justice scholars and activists who have long debated the appropriate aim and reach of criminal accountability in transitioning societies. On one hand, some have argued there is a duty to prosecute all involved in mass atrocity, while on the other hand critics have been concerned that criminal punishment reinforces an individualized and decontextualized understanding of harms and diminishes the likelihood of more profound transformation.

This panel will contextualize these debates by centering the role of police accountability in the much needed racial reckoning in the United States and discussing both the potential benefits and limitations of prosecuting police for racial violence. In particular, the panel will explore whether criminal accountability has lived up to its promise in other transitioning contexts and what lessons we can learn from those examples that might be applicable in the United States.

Date and Location

Monday, February 28, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm