Police Leaders Should Use DOJ Consent Decrees To Reform, Says PERF’s Wexler


About 30 police departments have entered into agreements with the Department of Justice on compliance with civil-rights laws. With Cleveland this week, others include Pittsburgh, Seattle, New Orleans and Los Angeles. Under the 1994 federal anticrime law, DOJ was given the authority to investigate state and local police. Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum tells NPR that, “No police department in the country should be surprised at what the Justice of Department looks for in these cases in terms of use of force, in terms of racial bias, in terms of unlawful stops.” Wexler advises police departments “to take the necessary steps on their own to make the changes. I hope that people will see what the Department of Justice is doing and use it as an opportunity to deal with issues before having to go through this kind of process.”

Do local police resent DOJ’s involvement? Wexler says that some police departments, such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati, may have been initially reticent about what does this mean. Eventually, he says, police leaders “realize that what this does allow departments to do is get some of the changes in terms of equipment, in terms of training, in terms of developing your future leaders that you normally could not get had you not had this consent decree. So I think the successful departments that are able to recognize that, look, it is what it is. We need to change. They will use this, the Department of Justice, to help them get the kind of funding from their city council and government that they normally wouldn’t get.”

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