Download Full Text (4.7 MB)


The aim of this Article is to explore the possibility of constructing a model that harnesses the power of private citizens to reform unconstitutional practices, particularly in the critical area of police-related rights violations. I seek here to reintegrate private citizens into the enforcement of public laws; to tap the private experiential and financial resources that were a necessary condition of the great structural reform efforts of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The vehicle by which I propose to accomplish these ends is a simple, yet novel, amendment to 42 U.S.C. § 14141, the statute which authorizes the Justice Department to seek broad injunctive remedies against municipal police departments engaged in unconstitutional “patterns and practices.” While Supreme Court standing jurisprudence would preclude private litigants from engaging in the sort of reformist enterprise envisioned in § 14141, I advance a theory of deputation which would give citizens a powerful voice in the social discourse on police-related policies. Drawing upon the notion of “public-private” partnerships, I argue here for the creation of an agency relationship between the executive charged with enforcing prohibitions against unconstitutional police practices, and the individuals and community groups that are directly affected by, and have the information, means and incentives required to challenge those practices.

[We] have with special soul . . .
Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love, And given his deputation all the organs Of our own pow'r.

Publication Date





Columbia Law Review

First Page



Civil Rights and Discrimination | Law | Law Enforcement and Corrections | Legal Remedies | State and Local Government Law