DOJ reveals federal program to monitor police departments

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DOJ reveals federal program to monitor police departments

The Department of Justice has announced a series of actions it plans to take in order to monitor state and local law enforcement groups to improve “efficiency and efficacy.” 

On Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced 19 actions the department will be taking when monitoring police departments, saying that despite the existing tools the Department of Justice is already using, more is needed. 

“The department has found that – while consent decrees and monitorships are important tools to increase transparency and accountability – the department can and should do more to improve their efficiency and efficacy,” Garland said in a statement. “The Associate Attorney General has recommended – and I have accepted – a set of 19 actions that the department will take to address those concerns.”

The new series of actions comes from a list of recommendations from Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, who did a review of the use of monitors by speaking with state and local law enforcement. 

“Consent decrees have proven to be vital tools in upholding the rule of law and promoting transformational change in the state and local governmental entities where they are used,” Gupta said. “The department must do everything it can to guarantee that they remain so by working to ensure that the monitors who help implement these decrees do so efficiently, consistently and with meaningful input and participation from the communities they serve.” 

The Department of Justice said that all 19 actions of the monitorship will minimize cost to jurisdictions while avoiding conflicts of interests, will be accountable to the court, will assess consistently across all jurisdictions, will hold “sustained, meaningful” engagement with the community and will be “structured to efficiently move jurisdictions into compliance.” 

Garland said that the goal of monitoring police departments will be to improve "efficiency and efficacy."
Garland said that the goal of monitoring police departments will be to improve “efficiency and efficacy.”
Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

To ensure the department meets those requirements, all monitor agreements will have budget caps, only one monitoring team per consent decree at a time, prioritize stakeholder input, include term limits, have stakeholders create a set of effective practices for monitors, and require termination hearings after no more than five years. 

Within the next 90 days, Gupta and Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Civil Rights Division will meet with a group of stakeholders to start the monitorship training guide and effective practices. 

Consent decrees, which were commonly used in the Obama administration and less frequently during the Trump administration, have in the past required police departments to make changes related to use of force and body cameras, according to Fox News. 

On Monday, Garland said the announcement was showing the department’s “transparent and collaborative way we are approaching our work,” telling the International Association of Chiefs of Police that the department “cannot fulfill its public safety mission without you and without close collaboration with you.”

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