The U.S. Department of Justice is stepping up its oversight of local police departments, pressuring them to limit the use of force in civilian encounters and eliminate racial profiling during traffic stops and other enforcement, says CQ Researcher. Over the past year, the Justice Department’s civil rights division has criticized long-troubled police agencies in such places as New Orleans, Seattle and Maricopa County, Az. The department’s power stems from a 1994 law allowing the federal government to identify a “pattern or practice” of constitutional violations and threaten court action to force police agencies to adopt changes.
Seattle officials have proposed a detailed plan to answer the government’s criticisms, but negotiations are stalled in New Orleans and Maricopa County, where Sheriff Joe Arpaio is balking at the government’s demand for court supervision of policy changes. Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska, an expert on police accountability, worries that the post-9/11 emphasis on homeland security has been a setback for best police practices. He notes that the stress on community policing has been reduced, and says that, “If the economy worsens, things could be very very worse.” The full article is available only to subscribers, or can be purchased for $15 at the link here.