Justice Department Overhauls Program to Curb Abusive Policing
(Bloomberg) -- The Justice Department is making a series of changes aimed at improving its ability to monitor the progress that state and local law enforcement agencies are making when it comes to ending abusive police practices, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday.
The new policy comes as Garland revives “pattern or practice” investigations into police departments -- a tool largely abandoned during the Trump administration and opposed by some cities and state officials who see the probes, which often lead to court-ordered consent decrees, as federal overreach.
“It is no secret that the Justice Department believes in the value of pattern-or-practice investigations,” Garland, a former federal prosecutor and judge, said in a speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police. “It is also no secret that the monitorships associated with some of those settlements have led to frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community.”
Consent decrees are agreements negotiated between the Justice Department and law enforcement agencies to improve their policing practices.
The new changes, described in a nine-page memo released Monday, include requiring a hearing no more than five years after a consent decree goes into effect so a jurisdiction can make its case for terminating the pact, as well as constraining the costs to monitor compliance and progress.
Garland has opened “pattern or practice” investigations of police departments in Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix.
According to the DOJ memo, jurisdictions largely agreed that consent decrees led to improvements but told the department they were also burdensome and sometimes costly.
“It is critical that the department continue to take stock of what has worked and what has not and ensure that monitorships are conducted consistently, efficiently, with significant community input, and with respect for the financial realities that state and local governmental entities confront,” according to the memo.
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