The U.S. Department of Justice has agreed to review the Milwaukee Police Department, a process that is expected to take two years and cover all aspects of the agency, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The review was requested by Police Chief Edward Flynn. Milwaukee is the ninth department to be granted the voluntary review, known as a “collaborative reform initiative. ” The process is a less adversarial option than a consent decree, which involves formal monitoring through the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division resulting from a “pattern-and-practice” investigation.
The key difference is the requirement for change. Departments under a collaborative review are not legally required to change. A “pattern and practice” lawsuit by the federal government can lead to federal oversight of a local law enforcement agency for years. Collaborative reform is neither a formal investigation nor a consent decree but rather a ‘proactive, nonadversarial, and cost-effective form of technical assistance’ for agencies committed to reform,” the police department said. The fact that DOJ is doing a voluntary review doesn’t mean a pattern and practice investigation could not be launched in the future. Flynn announced his request last month on the same day that federal prosecutors declined to file criminal civil-rights charges against the former Milwaukee police officer who shot and killed Dontre Hamilton in widely publicized incident.