Holder Sees DOJ Insistence On Police Reform As Signature Achievement


The U.S. Justice Department’s wide-ranging civil rights investigation of the Cleveland police department could lead to years of court oversight and mandated controls on the use of force, says the New York Times. It is the latest in a series of federal interventions in police departments across the U.S., part of an initiative Attorney General Eric Holder considers a signature achievement, forcing change and accountability on insular police departments. “For me, it's kind of personal,” Holder told the Times. In his days as a prosecutor and a judge in Washington, D.C., he recalled, strong criminal cases had crumbled because jurors mistrusted the police. “Sometimes people think a choice has to be made between lawful, respectful policing and effective policing,” he said. “I think they are mutually dependent.”

The federal investigations are often followed by consent decrees and years of court monitoring. Cities that have not come under direct scrutiny are encouraged to tighten rules for using Tasers and guns, to find better ways to deal with mentally ill suspects and to adopt technology such as video cameras worn by officers. Some police departments and political leaders have pushed back. Last month, 100 Seattle officers filed suit to block a court-ordered plan, saying it imposed unrealistic limits that put police and the public at risk. The Obama administration has opened investigations in about 20 cities. “This program has brought important reforms in the departments that have settlements,” said criminologist Samuel Walker of the University of Nebraska. “More importantly, it has defined a set of best practices, conditions for effective and constitutional policing that are now well known throughout the country.”

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