In the wake of high-profile police-involved incidents, calls to reform often dysfunctional departments grow deafening. Like a superhero, the Department of Justice heeds those calls for help, wielding its trusty tool – the federal consent decree or court-monitored agreement with the city to implement police reforms.
But that blunt instrument often proves to be ineffective at fixing the real problems besetting the targeted law enforcement agencies while demoralizing sworn officers, burdening local budgets, lasting for years beyond its expiration date, and harming public safety in the process.
Now, following the controversial police killing of Breonna Taylor, DOJ lawyers stand ready to sue the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department after issuing the findings of its wide-ranging investigation. Two more cities, Minneapolis and Phoenix, await the results of similar federal investigations.
But before cities and law enforcement agencies sign onto these agreements, they should learn from other jurisdictions and negotiate in the best interests of their citizens, not just cede to the pressure to accept the Justice Department’s terms as written.