Wachs Distinguished Lecture: Policing the Open Road

Policing the Open Road | Wachs Distinguished Lecture by Sarah Seo

March 17, 2021

Presented as part of the UCLA Urban Planning and UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies Perloff Lecture Series. Each year the annual Wachs Lecture draws innovative thinkers to the University of California to address today’s most pressing issues in transportation. Created by students to honor Professor Martin Wachs upon his retirement from the University, the lecture rotates between Berkeley and UCLA, the campuses at which Marty taught.

Columbia Law professor Sarah Seo‘s book “Policing the Open Road” is a thought-provoking look at how the automobile fundamentally changed the nature of police work, and thus the conception of freedom, in the United States. These themes are close to transportation studies, but too often ignored in transportation academia. These issues, moreover, will only become more salient as broader swaths of transportation academia seek to understand and study the role of race and ethnicity in freedom of mobility. Professor Seo will be joined by UCLA professor Genevieve Carpio, whose book, “Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race,” documents the effects of police-imposed limits to mobility on Latinx populations in Southern California’s Inland Empire.

SARAH SEOSARAH SEO is a professor at Columbia Law School, where she teaches criminal law, criminal procedure, and legal history. Her book, “Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom” (Harvard University Press 2019), has been reviewed widely, including in The New Yorker, listed in Smithsonian Magazine’s ‘Ten Best History Books of 2019,’ and cited in judicial opinions. In addition to publishing in academic journals, she’s written for The Atlantic, Boston Review, Lapham’s Quarterly, Le Monde Diplomatique, The New York Review of Books, and The Washington Post. Since the publication of “Policing the Open Road,” professor Seo has been advocating for the removal of civil traffic law enforcement from police duties.

Before joining Columbia, she spent four years at Iowa Law School. She received her A.B. and Ph.D. in history, both at Princeton, and J.D. at Columbia Law School. Between law school and grad school, she clerked on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Gena CarpioGENEVIEVE CARPIO is an Assistant Professor in the César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies. Her research and teaching interests include relational studies of race, 20th century U.S. history, (sub)urban history, and spatial theory, particularly as it relates to notions of place and mobility. She has a long-standing interest in the public and digital humanities, particularly as it relates to the California Inland Empire, where she was raised. She is the author of a book on spatial mobility, both permission to move freely and prohibitions on movement, and racial formation in the multiracial suburbs of Los Angeles and the Inland Empire entitled Collisions at the Crossroads: How Place and Mobility Make Race (University of California Press, 2019).

ManvilleMICHAEL MANVILLE is Associate Professor of Urban Planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. Both his research and teaching focus on the relationships between transportation and land use, and on local public finance. Much of his research concerns the tendency of local governments to hide the costs of driving in the property market, through land use restrictions intended to fight traffic congestion. These land use laws only sometimes reduce congestion, and can profoundly influence the supply and price of housing.