The Department of Justice has several practical tools for bringing about lawful and fair policing. Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Act substantially reorganized the principles of police behavior in the United States. One of the procedures is a “pattern and practice” investigation. The department applied this process to correct severe practices of biased policing, excessive force, and other unconstitutional law enforcement.
The U. S. Department of Justice should have the authority to investigate allegations of “patterns and practices” of police misconduct as provided in Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control Act of 1994. The authority to investigate, intervene in, and force reforms within any police department deemed to exhibit a pattern and practice of police misconduct may be associated with a modest reduction in the risk of filing civil rights claims (Powell et al.). Such interference has resulted in reducing civil rights violations. However, there are some doubts about the effectiveness of this procedure, and the effectiveness of time-consuming and expensive federal intervention in local law enforcement affairs is not always justified.
The DOJ may effectively curb civil rights litigation in consent decree jurisdictions, showing promise for police agencies and city administrators facing intervention in the future. DOJ investigation may signal to the public that action is being taken to rectify a persistent problem. Thus far, a growing body of evidence reveals support for the consent decree process. Once problematic agencies are identified, the U.S. Justice Department, through the consent decree process, possesses a tool for competently reducing the incidence of misconduct within America’s law enforcement agencies. Recent examples of police misconduct indicate that the DOJ will continue to use Section 14141 as a tool for bringing lawful and fair policing.
The research suggests that the likelihood of a civil rights filing occurring may be reduced by as much as 43% after DOJ intervention (Powell et al., 596). In addition, in recent years, consent decrees have become broader in scope and mandate more changes. These more recent decrees may include requirements such as detailed use-of-force procedures or guidelines for interacting with suspects that exhibit problems with mental health. Over time, these more exhaustive decrees may result in more effective and longer-lasting changes.
Ferguson as a city may reform its approach to law enforcement. A small municipal department may offer more significant potential for officers to form partnerships and have frequent, positive interactions with Ferguson residents, repairing and maintaining police-community relationships (United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division). These reform initiatives have the potential to make Ferguson safer and more unified so that they will be well worth the substantial time and devotion they demand.
Powell, Zachary, Meitl, Michele & Worrall, John. “Police Consent Decrees and Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation.” Criminology & Public Policy. 2017.
United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. “Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department”. U. S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. 2015.
United States District Court Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division. “Consent Decree” United States District Court.2016.