"Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights"

Sep 22, 2021

Police officers in the U.S. are nine times more likely to kill African-American men than they are any other group of citizens. A tragic statistic, to be sure, but also -- given so many recent events -- a statistic that many won't find very surprising. How police forces across the nation relate to matters of racism, civil rights, and race relations are now coming under close scrutiny. But what about the role of the courts in this issue? On today's edition of ST, we discuss a new book that draws on civil rights history as well as legal history in order to argue that the Supreme Court has, through various rulings over the past several decades, effectively enabled racist policing and sanctioned law enforcement excesses. Our guest is Erwin Chemerinsky, a prolific author who's also the dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. As The New York Times Book Review has noted of Chemerinsky's book: "Stunning.... A damning indictment of the Supreme Court.... As Chemerinsky declares, the court's record 'from 1986 through the present and likely for years to come, can easily be summarized: The police almost always win....' Aside from the fact that he writes well, Chemerinsky...is also an experienced advocate, having appeared before the court on many occasions, and also having served as a consultant to those police forces who either by choice or necessity have tried to overhaul their practices.... Whether the furor unleashed by Black Lives Matter will lead to state and city governments reforming their police departments is yet to be seen, but all lawmakers, in fact all concerned citizens, need to read this book. It is an eloquent and damning indictment not only of horrific police practices, but also of the justices who condoned them and continue to do so."