Executive Summary (Manhattan Institute)
In 2019, the Chicago Police Department (CPD)—one of the most controversial police departments in the nation—was placed under a federally enforced consent decree that mandates sweeping reforms and subjects the department to the supervision of a court-appointed independent monitor. Although implementation of the decree is still ongoing, this report reviews the preliminary evidence of its effects.
Across a variety of indicators, it seems that the consent decree has not had an appreciable effect on police conduct or public perception of the department. And there is at least some evidence that the process leading up to the consent decree exacerbated Chicago’s already-substantial crime problem. While prior research on consent decrees suggests that they can sometimes have an effect, that outcome is far from certain, casting further doubt on the prospects of Chicago’s decree.
Why is the consent decree having little or no measurable impact? It may be the result of unwillingness on the part of CPD and the city to embrace reform. Alternatively, the consent decree’s ineffectiveness may be attributed to preexisting reforms that CPD had already implemented on its own before the decree took effect. Both of these explanations, however, cast doubt on the viability of the federal investigation and consent decree process as a tool for achieving police reform.