Consent decrees also serve as both beacons and touchstones that instigate broad positive change throughout policing. That’s crucial in a nation with more than 15,000 state and local law enforcement agencies — and only about 70 Department of Justice pattern-or-practice investigations in 20-plus years . . .While this broader impact is difficult to quantify, one can go anywhere in this country and see it’s real. During the six years I spent investigating police departments and negotiating consent decrees for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, I cannot remember attending any gathering related to policing when I wasn’t approached by someone from a place the Justice Department had never investigated and probably never would who still said consent decrees had improved policing in their city.There was the earnest lieutenant eager to tell me of changes that his department made to training and use-of-force reporting; the community leader who told me how he and others had convinced town officials to change the way fines and fees are collected after pointing them to our Ferguson consent decree; the sergeant telling me she’d “read every one” of our consent decrees and kept her chief apprised to ensure their department had mechanisms to detect and respond to incidents of officer misconduct. Law enforcement officials sometimes sent me new policies and trainings revised after reviewing our consent decrees.Justice Department police consent decrees, created with input from national police experts, local police officers and interested community members (and affirmed by local legislatures) inspire the creation of best practices that can be implemented to restore police legitimacy and avoid the tragic incidents that have roiled too many communities the past several years. Consider how New Orleans, required by its consent decree to provide peer-intervention training to officers, responded by creating its EPIC program to teach officers how to step in and prevent excessive force and other police misconduct before it occurs. That program is now poised to become a national model.
April 4, 2017 at 6:43 PM EDT