What are Consent Decrees?
Department of Justice Consent Decrees
The most visible presence of consent decrees are the settlements between municipal police agencies (and others) and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Section 14141, a provision of the 1994 crime bill signed into law by President Clinton granted new authority to the DOJ to both investigate and sue law enforcement agencies for a ‘pattern and practice’ of unconstitutional policing where the agency was violating the civil rights of the citizens it was charged to protect.
The crime bill was passed during the crack cocaine epidemic and in the climate of the federal civil rights convictions of the officers involved in the Rodney King traffic stop who were previously acquitted in state court. The Democratic congressional black caucus was advocating fervently for sentence enhancements on crack cocaine convictions. It would be challenging to convince a young democrat voter of these recent policy stances.
First Consent Decree: Pittsburgh 1997
As soon as the ink dried on the consent decree, the New York Times writes: ‘Sizing up the investigators, Chief McNeilly — dressed, as usual, in uniform — had one thought he could not get out of his mind: “There was nobody with any police experience.”’
Their agreement, thankfully had an end point in 2002, but following millions of general budget monies spent on now obsolete software and programs, and even today, there are accusation that the reforms ‘did not stick.’ The stain of a consent decree is permanent.
Consent Decrees have earned a bad reputation
Years ago, I knew of but didn’t fully understand the destructive nature of consent decrees until I found Bob Scales on LinkedIn.
“The only way out of a consent decree is to never agree to one in the first place. DOJ now has Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix in their crosshairs. If the Mayors of these cities agree to sign a consent decree, they will be handing over control of their police departments and their community’s public safety to DOJ attorneys, federal judges and for-profit monitors. All it will take is for one city to say no to DOJ, and the entire consent decree house of cards will come crashing down.”
Dr. Travis Yates of Courageous Police Leadership with Travis Yates provided effective technical assistance to the citizens who are organizing against a consent decree in Phoenix. Based on their efforts, the DOJ has dropped back a step, yet persisting to acquire an agreement where there is a degree of federal control over the Phoenix Police Department. We should all be assured that what was thought to be impossible recently, a rejection of intrusive (and incompetent) federal oversight, is now a sane and reasonable conversation.
“In Valor, there is Hope.”
My associates and I have means to put the threat of consent decrees into the dustbin of history so if you are ready to discuss how we intend to that please reach out at [email protected]. Let us know in the comments your experience with consent decrees in your city or county.
Please keep all our officers in your prayers!
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