DOJ Policing Investigations Focusing on Early Intervention

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The U.S. Justice Department’s investigation of Baltimore police rebuked the agency for an entrenched culture of discriminatory policing. Justice investigators singled out a core failure: Baltimore’s system for identifying troubled officers was broken and existed in name only. Justice found that critical disciplinary records were excluded from its early intervention system, that police supervisors often intervened only after an officer’s behavior became egregious and that when they did, the steps they took were inadequate. The problems with Baltimore’s early intervention system are not isolated in that city, the Washington Post reports. In many departments, police have failed to use early intervention systems effectively, Justice has found. Since 1994, 36 civil rights investigations by Justice discovered that local agencies had deeply flawed early intervention systems or no system in place at all, found a review of those investigations by The Washington Post.

The Newark Police Department abandoned its early intervention system after just one year and lost track of more than 100 officers who had been flagged for monitoring, Justice found in 2014. DOJ, which has investigated dozens of police departments nationwide for civil rights violations, considers early intervention systems critical to reforming embattled agencies. Some of the troubled police departments had early intervention systems and collected information about officers’ behavior but did nothing with the data, investigators found. “There was nobody actually reading it, or looking at it and evaluating it, and then taking action thereafter,” said Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division. “You can have a system and technology, but you actually need human beings to use the information, to act on it and to analyze it over time.”

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