Policing Project Externship

Professor Barry Friedman
Professor Farhang Heydari
Open to 2L and 3L students
Maximum of 12 students
Not offered 2024-25
4-5 credits*
No prerequisites.

Course Description

We entrust police with awesome authority—to conduct surveillance, to use force—and awesome responsibility—to keep us safe. Often, when people talk about a lack of accountability in policing, they mean that when an officer harms someone, or surveillance techniques are deployed inappropriately, no one is held responsible—officers rarely are disciplined or prosecuted, courts admit illegally seized evidence, and civil lawsuits rarely are successful. This is back-end accountability, and it kicks in only after something has gone wrong. Back-end accountability is essential, but because it only target misconduct, there is a limit to what it can accomplish to guide policing before it goes awry. At the Policing Project, we take a different approach.  

The Policing Project at NYU Law partners with communities and police to promote public safety through transparency, equity, and democratic engagement. We do this through a focus on front-end, or democratic, accountability—meaning the public has a voice in setting transparent, ethical, and effective policing policies and practices before the police or government act. The goal is to achieve public safety in a manner that is equitable, non-discriminatory, and respectful of public values. Broadly speaking, our work is centered around three focus areas:

  • Front-End Voice in Policing: We believe that in a democratic society, the public must have a voice in how it is policed.
  • Regulation of Policing Technology: We believe that there must be transparency and public debate around the adoption of new policing technologies.
  • Re-Imagining Public Safety: We believe it is time for a national conversation about what public safety means, and how it is best achieved.

We have pursued these goals through a variety of projects—from a Neighborhood Policing Initiative in Chicago to our blockbuster reports on face recognition and automated license plate readers that led to real change in the tech industry. In doing this work, we focus on bringing all sides together. From police leadership to union officials, from community activists to think tanks, from elected officials to private industry, we strive to include voices from every side of the policing world.

Students in the Policing Project externship will have the opportunity to work alongside our staff and partners on a wide variety of work –from conducting factual research into particular policing technologies to drafting new police department policies, and much more.

Application Procedure

The Policing Project is not part of the clinic matching system. The Externship is offered in both Fall and Spring, and students may sign up for either or both semesters. To apply for this Externship, please go to this page.

* 5 credits include 2-3 externship credits and 2 academic seminar credits.