Some Chiefs Chafing as Justice Department Keeps Closer Eye on Policing
When Justice Department officials announced the results of a two-year investigation into civil rights violations at the Miami Police Department this month, it was the 11th time in two years that the federal government had put a local law enforcement agency on notice that it must change its ways or face a federal lawsuit.
Cities from New Orleans and Seattle to Missoula, Mont., and East Haven, Conn., are grappling with similar federally mandated changes after investigations into their police departments. In Miami, the Justice Department found a pattern of the use of excessive force — in an eight-month period in 2011, eight young black men were shot and killed by the police. This month, the Justice Department announced a sweeping settlement forcing Puerto Rico to change 11 areas of policing, including the use of excessive force, searches, stops and the handling of domestic violence. It was, the department said, “among the most extensive agreements ever obtained.”
Civil rights violations by police departments have been subject to investigation by the federal government since 1994, when Congress passed the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act. But federal intervention has become far more common and much broader in scope under the Obama administration, a development proudly highlighted on the Justice Department’s Web site.
During Mr. Obama’s first term, the department initiated 15 investigations into troubled law enforcement agencies, almost twice the number carried out in the last four years of the Bush administration. While early investigations focused narrowly on the use of excessive force and racial profiling, recent inquiries have taken on a host of other issues, including the treatment of the mentally ill, the handling of sexual assault cases and unconscious bias of officers.
Last year, the department extended its purview further, announcing its intention to investigate a district attorney’s office over the handling of sexual assault cases. The Missoula County attorney, Fred Van Valkenburg, has so far declined to cooperate, arguing that under state law, the Justice Department has no standing to investigate his office....
...But the federal intervention has also caused frustration among some police chiefs, who say the government should work to find a cheaper and more efficient process. Consent decrees, they say, can drag on for years and impose huge cost burdens on cities that are least able to afford them.
In Detroit, which declared bankruptcy on July 18, a consent decree imposed to correct a range of serious problems including the use of excessive force, false arrest, illegal detention and failures in investigation and training is in its 11th year. In New Orleans, city officials asked the Justice Department to come in but are now contesting the consent decree, saying its measures are too expensive to carry out.
“We don’t disagree with the objectives at all,” said Chuck Wexler, the executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an organization based in Washington that conducts research on policing and recently issued a report on federal civil rights investigations into police departments. “What we find issue with is the mechanics of the process.”
In addition to cost, the issues addressed in the forum’s report included concerns that standards for compliance set by the Justice Department were sometimes unreasonably high, 95 percent in some instances; that the process was often adversarial rather than collaborative; and that there was a lack of measures to tell whether the federal intervention was effective.
Some police chiefs also complained that the Justice Department, in its eagerness to promote best practices in new areas, in some cases investigated police departments that, their chiefs argued, were not clearly in violation of constitutional standards....
...In some cases, consent decrees can also make it more difficult for departments to focus on fighting crime, some chiefs said. William J. Bratton, who as chief of the Los Angeles Police Department from 2002 to 2009 steered it through seven years of a 13-year consent decree, says he has no doubt that in some cases intervention by the Justice Department is necessary.
“The state of American policing is not where it should be,” Mr. Bratton said. But, he continued, “there is a tension, and it is felt by police chiefs, between the constitutional policing that we’re obligated to provide to operate within the law and the obligation to provide public safety in terms of controlling crime and disorder.”...
A consent decree is basically an agreement to allow a contractor to oversee a local police department. Like ay bureaucracy, the contractor has a motive to not get out of the contact. Money. If Gotham City PD is "in compliant" (an uncertain ever moving target) the contractor no longer has a job. Gee, I wonder who those contractors support with donations in the campaigns.
Now a question. Who is going to oversee the Justice Department in the violoation of Brian Terry's civil rights? Yu know, the federal agent who was murdered with one of the weapons in Fast and Furious. That man worked for Holder. For some reason Eric isn't concerned about his rights. Pathetics.