It’s Time To Pull The Curtain Back On Consent Decrees

We need to have a public debate on the merits and impacts of consent decrees imposed by the Civil Rights Division at the US Department of Justice (DOJ). DOJ will not discuss or comment on its pattern-or-practice investigations until it is ready to hold a national press conference to reveal their findings. This leaves cities and their communities in the dark. DOJ will not talk about consent decrees until after a city has agreed to sign them.

In between press conferences, DOJ uses surrogates to get their message out. These are normally former DOJ officials who will give the party line without any accountability. These surrogates will attack anyone who dares to question DOJ’s motives or tactics.

It is time to pull the curtain back and reveal what DOJ is really doing behind the scenes. The public needs to understand the political motivations propelling DOJ investigations and DOJ needs to be held accountable for their false and defamatory statements about local police departments and city administrations. Sunlight is the best disinfectant and DOJ needs to have the spotlight turned on them. If DOJ is going to claim that police departments have a pattern-or-practice of unconstitutional policing, then DOJ must be prepared to provide the evidence to support such claims. Cities should follow Phoenix’s example and demand to see the evidence before entering into any agreement or consent decree with the DOJ.

I have been talking to Phoenix about what happens during a DOJ investigation and the impacts of DOJ consent decrees. I use facts and evidence to support my arguments as well as my first-hand experience working with DOJ in Seattle. I am not motivated by politics as the DOJ surrogates claim and neither is Phoenix. If DOJ wants to place Phoenix and other cities under a consent decree, then they need to provide the evidence to support such a drastic and costly action.

I am willing to debate the DOJ (or their surrogates) anywhere anytime. Let’s have an open and honest discussion about what is actually happening in cities operating under federal oversight and let’s do a cost-benefit analysis to see if it is worth it. More importantly, let’s look for more effective alternatives to the costly and ineffective consent decree industrial complex.


Bob Scales is the CEO of Police Strategies