“We ought to determine the law’s legitimacy at least in part from the perspective of those who suffer its coercion,” wrote Yale Law School Dean Robert Post and Harvard Law School Dean Martha Minow in an opinion piece for The Boston Globe published Tuesday.
The article, which responded to protests around the country catalyzed by the grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, acknowledged that students from both law schools have struggled to reconcile “their ideals of justice with what they perceive as manifest injustices in the criminal law system.”
From there, the two deans called for reforms in the criminal justice system. Without reforms, they argued, trust in police departments, and more broadly the law, will not be regained.
“When the law’s blows fall persistently on the lives and bodies of identifiable groups, and when the procedures we have designed to create legal accountability are short-circuited or fail, our aspiration for a legitimate social order is put at risk,” they wrote.
“As deans of law schools devoted to the rule of law, we work continuously to instill a commitment to the legal system,” they continued. “We regard the rule of law as a precious and fragile resource. But the rule of law requires the legal system to respect procedures necessary to expose and correct its own mistakes. A failing legal system puts us all in a chokehold.”
Minow and Post also argued that though police violence may sometimes be necessary, “real and specific” procedures must be put in place to further regulate it. To this point, they suggested obligatory responses by police commissioners to the concerns of the community, establishing state-level agencies with resources for prosecution and review processes by the Department of Justice to investigate potentially racially-based police violence.