Consent Decree Monitors Use Vague “Culture” Metric To Extend Monitoring

Federal consent decrees are not about constitutional policing; they are about “culture change.” You don’t need to take my word for it. Just read the latest consent decree monitor report from the new Cleveland monitor:

“CDP must focus on the biggest challenge ahead: changing the culture of the organization…CDP has not yet completed this broad culture change and has multiple challenge areas it must overcome in order to reach this achievement.”

“Culture change” is a highly subjective term that is not defined in any written consent decree document but is used by monitors and federal judges to extend federal oversight of police departments indefinitely. “Culture change” is whatever the montiors and judges say it is and there is no way for a city or police department to refute or rebut an allegation that their culture has not sufficiently changed.

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is allergic to data, evidence and facts and they attempt to avoid reality at all costs. DOJ pattern or practice findings letters are devoid of meaningful data and evidence and are written by highly opinionated unnamed civil rights lawyers who know nothing about policing. Monitoring plans for consent decrees are designed to be subjective with no objective metrics that can be used to determine compliance. This means that compliance with federal oversight is whatever the monitor and judge say it is.

I expect that these unethical oversight strategies were developed by the judges, monitors and DOJ attorneys who have been attending the annual closed-door, invitation-only consent decree conferences held in Texas.

The oversight of consent decrees in different cities across the country is too similar for this to simply be a coincidence. DOJ attorneys, monitors and judges, use an identical cookie-cutter approach to police reform that costs local taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and lasts more than a decade.

Consent decrees are part of a political strategy that is designed to unite critics of the police and gain their support. Consent decrees line the pockets of for-profit monitors who are usually attorneys that have close ties with DOJ. It is time for this wasteful and corrupt system to come to an end. It is time for cities to say no to the DOJ and refuse to sign these consent decrees.


Bob Scales is a former King County deputy prosecutor and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. He is the CEO of Police Strategies.