Apr. 12: Policing Project 2021-2022 Legal Fellows

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The Policing Project at NYU Law is seeking to hire Legal Fellows to join our team for the 2021-2022 academic year. This unique opportunity is open to current 1Ls and 2Ls (rising 2Ls and 3Ls). Legal Fellows commit to working approximately 10 hours per week during the Fall and Spring semesters and will receive a stipend of $5,000 for their efforts.


The Policing Project’s Mission

At the Policing Project, we work to promote public safety through transparency, equity, and democratic accountability. Our approach is rooted in our belief that many people—particularly policymakers—have a fundamental misunderstanding of what true police accountability must look like.  Too often, the reforms and accountability measures that are proposed focus on individual officer conduct, rather than what is systemically problematic or structurally unsound. At the Policing Project we call this “back-end accountability.” This includes measures like the prosecution of police officers, civil rights suits for monetary relief, establishment of civilian review boards (to examine complaints against officers), and body-worn cameras, to name a few.


Back-end accountability is, of course, important in any system.  When people engage in misconduct, there should be consequences; this is no more or less true for police officers than anyone else.


But many of the problems of policing in this country are not about individual “bad apples” or particular instances of things that have gone wrong.  They are systemic and structural in nature, ranging from the way that use of force is understood and deployed, to how racial disparities are recorded and addressed, to transparency issues around use of surveillance technologies.  And they also include very basic questions about why the police are considered the right responders for many of the nation’s social problems—from substance abuse, to homelessness, to mental illness.  That is one reason why some are talking about defunding or diverting resources from the police—because policing seems like precisely the wrong approach to addressing these social concerns.


These systemic and structural problems will not be fixed with back-end accountability alone; they require hearing community voices and encouraging democratic engagement around policing. They also require establishing rules, regulations, and policies on the front end (before things go wrong), in a way that is transparent, evidence-based, and provides an opportunity for public input and debate—what we at the Policing Project refer to as “front-end accountability” or “democratic policing.”


In other areas of government, this type of front-end accountability is a normal complement to back-end accountability.  But it is precisely this sort of democratic accountability that has been missing from policing.  In the face of constant and widespread concerns about policing, legislative bodies largely stand silent.  We leave the police free to regulate themselves.  And though some of them truly do try, many policing agencies are not really hearing what those in the communities they are policing have to say—and the police don’t have the capacity to address those concerns anyway, without the rest of government participating.  We would not think to regulate or address any other aspect of government this way—through delegation and neglect—and it does not make sense for the police. At the Policing Project, we are working to change this.


Learn more about our work on our website: PolicingProject.org.


Responsibilities of Legal Fellows

Legal Fellows engage in a wide variety of work depending on the Policing Project’s priorities. Responsibilities include:

  • Conducting a wide range of factual and legal research for our litigation and emerging police technologies portfolios. Past projects include:
    • Legal research to help develop case strategy for impact litigation promoting democratic authorization of police policy and practice;
    • Researching First Amendment implications of an agency’s aerial surveillance program;
    • Factual research into the biometrics testing program developed by the Department of Homeland Security;
    • Factual research on emerging surveillance technology for the AI Ethics Board of a leading policing technology company.
  • Drafting model policies, statutes, and public-facing materials. For example:
    • Drafting model use of force and social media monitoring policies;
    • Outlining a regulatory framework for law enforcement use of private surveillance systems as part of a civil rights audit of a major tech company;
    • Authoring blog posts and explainers for our website.
  • Attending our public and closed-door events with opportunities to interact with key stakeholders and experts. Past events include:
    • Closed-door roundtable on legislative regulation of policing surveillance technology featuring tech industry leaders, chiefs of police, and leading civil rights advocates.
    • Conference on law enforcement use of face recognition technology attended by privacy advocates, legal experts, government officials, and tech vendors.

Legal Fellows will work closely with the Policing Project’s leadership team, including Professor Barry Friedman, and with other members of the Policing Project staff. Our work often requires close collaboration with both community groups advocating for police reform and with active police officials. Legal Fellows should be comfortable with this type of broad engagement.


Legal Fellows must commit to working approximately 10 hours per week throughout the academic year, attend Policing Project weekly staff meetings and any additional meetings pertaining to your projects through the year, and attend Policing Project public events (conferences, salons, etc.) as often as possible.


Application Instructions

To apply to be a Legal Fellow, submit a cover letter, resume, transcript, and at least two references to info@policingproject.org. Indicate “Legal Fellow Application” in the subject line. Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis and are due no later than April 12, 2021.


Alumni of our legal fellow program are available to provide additional information and answer applicant questions. They may be contacted at:

Claire Groden, claire.groden@law.nyu.edu

Santana Jackson, santana.jackson@law.nyu.edu

Jonathan Spratley, jonathan.spratley@law.nyu.edu

David Wechsler, david.wechsler@law.nyu.edu


The Policing Project heartily welcomes applicants from diverse background and is an equal opportunity employer. We do not discriminate on the basis of age, citizenship status, color, disability, marital or parental status, national origin, race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation.

EOE/AA/Minorities/Females/Vet/Disabled/Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity.

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