What are police for? This topic has become a searing one over the last two years. Most people think the primary function of police is to address crime, but the reality is the decades of research finds little support for this popular idea. In fact, until recently, few believed that police made a substantial difference in the crime rate. What we do know is that the relationship that police have with the public is an important barometer of the public’s relationship with the state, and we know that police officers play a critical role in conveying important information to members of the public about their role and status as citizens. This lecture will explain the theory behind this idea and new empirical research that highlights not only the nature of the relationship that individuals have with legal authorities but also how the nature of that relationship implicates how we understand one another.
Tracey L. Meares is the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law at Yale University. Before arriving at Yale, she was Max Pam Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Studies in Criminal Justice at the University of Chicago Law School. She was, at both The University of Chicago and Yale Law Schools, the first African American woman to be granted tenure. Before going into academia, Professor Meares held positions clerking for the Honorable Harlington Wood, Jr., of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and as an Honors Program Trial Attorney in the Antitrust Division of the United States Department of Justice.
Professor Meares has worked extensively with the federal government, having served on the Committee on Law and Justice, a National Research Council Standing Committee of the National Academy of Sciences from 2004–2011. Additionally, she has served on two National Research Council Review Committees: one to review research on police policy and practices, which produced the book, Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence (2004, Skogan and Frydl, eds.) and another to review the National Institute of Justice, Strengthening the National Institute of Justice, (2010, Welford, Chemers and Schuck, eds). In November of 2010, Meares was named by Attorney General Eric Holder to sit on the Department of Justice’s newly-created Science Advisory Board. And in December 2014, President Obama named her as a member of his Task Force on 21st Century Policing.
Professor Meares’s teaching and research interests focus on criminal procedure and criminal law policy, with a particular emphasis on empirical investigation of these subjects. Her writings on such issues as crime prevention and community capacity building are concertedly interdisciplinary and reflect a civil society approach to law enforcement that builds upon the interaction between law, culture, social norms, and social organization. She has written widely on these topics in both the academic and trade press. To this end, Professor Meares has been engaged in a number of action-oriented research projects in Chicago, Northern California, and several sites across New York State focused on violence reduction through legitimacy-enhancing strategies. Meares has been especially interested as of late in teaching and writing about communities, police legitimacy, and legal policy, and she has lectured on this topic extensively across the country to audiences of academics, lay people, and police professionals. Together with Tom Tyler, she directs the Justice Collaboratory at Yale Law School, which plays a central role, along with John Jay University and the Center for Policing Equity at UCLA in a new federal initiative to build trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. She has a B.S. in general engineering from the University of Illinois and a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School.
Read more at the original publication