Orrick Partners with NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund on Innovative Toolkit to Support Police Accountability

August.13.2020

An Orrick pro bono team collaborated with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (LDF) on the release today of a comprehensive toolkit to support police accountability. The toolkit, Community Oversight of Police Union Contracts, is designed to help identify the barriers in police union contracts that may shield officers from the timely investigation of misconduct complaints and appropriate discipline.

Led by Pro Bono Counsel Rene Kathawala and partner Lorraine McGowen, the Orrick team worked closely with LDF over several years to develop the toolkit.  “We are pleased to help LDF make it available as an objective tool and benchmarking resource at a time when there is increased scrutiny of police conduct as a focus of the Black Lives Matter movement,” Rene said.

This toolkit will help guide the public through the process of inquiring about the status of police union contracts and analyzing provisions that can be barriers to transparency and accountability.

LDF’s toolkit identifies six areas of concern based on a review of 112 police union contracts in 82 of the nation’s largest cities. It describes how each area of concern can impede investigations of complaints or shield officers from discipline for misconduct. It also includes a list of questions that community members can use to help them pinpoint areas where changes may be appropriate in their locality’s police union contracts.

The six areas of concern are: (1) delays in interviewing officers accused of misconduct; (2) limits on time periods for imposing discipline on officers accused of misconduct; (3) requirements that complaints be signed or sworn; (4) removal of disciplinary records from police personnel files; (5) the use and composition of disciplinary hearing boards; and (6) the use of vacation or other leave time in lieu of suspension.

This is the latest example of our pro bono work in the area of racial, social and economic justice. Another Orrick team led by Tiffany Wright recently filed an amicus brief in a California case warning of the threat to the justice system posed by striking jurors from criminal trials based on their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

Orrick last month was again ranked one of the top five law firms in the U.S. and internationally for pro bono by American Lawyer, and named for the third consecutive year to the National Law Journal Pro Bono Hot List.

In addition to Rene and Lorraine, the team on the LDF toolkit included Lynne Hirata, Devin Canavan, Christina Hatinoglu, Jennifer Jones, Dora Mao, Helen Pennock, Lisa Magged, Helen Aki, David Litterine-Kaufman, Jon Mandel and Dao Huynh.