I have written and discussed the abject failure that Consent Decrees have had on American Law Enforcement and the communities they serve more times than you likely cared to see but the topic is much larger than simply government control (and destruction) of a few law enforcement agencies but part of a larger and scarier agenda that seeks to further undermine police-community relations and overall law and order in this country.
It is simply amazing that after 30 years of failures, that leaders continue to not only permit consent decrees but volunteer for them, knowing that the past will predict their future.
But that amazement doesn’t come close to the fact that our own police organizations, that we trust with our member dues to stand up for us, have said nothing on this topic. If you wondered how groups like the IACP remain silent while their police chiefs raise their hand to give the federal government control of their agencies, simply look at where their money is coming from and who they are beholden to.
Fortunately, more are catching on to this proverbial scam.
The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund (LELDF) just released a new report that absolutely eviscerates DOJ Consent Decrees. It’s an excellent document that outlines the history, failures, tactics along sound alternatives that gives leaders no excuse to keep permitting the DOJ to ruin local communities.
The document should be the last nail in a coffin that should have been buried long ago and replaced with real leadership but the enemies of law and order will not go down without a fight. On the same day the LELDF came out with their report, the Vera Institute published a puff piece on how great consent decrees are. Maybe it’s a coincidence or maybe, just like those silent police organizations, Vera knows exactly what their job is…Provide cover to the federal government which provides them with 86% of their funding.
Here are a few key points from the LELDF report. I encourage every law enforcement professional to read, save and even print the document.
“Consent decrees are a blunt instrument for enacting police reform.”
“The federal government’s demands can bog down agencies who must implement reforms tangential to the claimed pattern or practice that prompted the intervention. Departmental morale declines as officers grow frustrated that excessive red tape prevents them from fighting crime. Officers may grow reticent to police proactively and risk repercussions from the excessive scrutiny these agreements entail. At the same time, crime- fighting resources are stretched thin, leaving public safety to suffer as a result. Further, since the metrics for full compliance are both unrealistic and mutable, the decrees can and do last for more than a decade – only exacerbating the morale and public safety challenges. Worse, the entire approach has not proven to be effective overall as public dissatisfaction with police performance worsens and departmental compliance slips after years under a consent decree.”
Unlike much of what the DOJ claims in their investigative findings, the idea that consent decrees hurt agencies and the communities they serve is not an opinion. For decades, we have seen consent decrees raise crime and lower employee retention. There are clear and convincing data points to prove this and the report does an excellent job of pointing this out.
“Yet much of that substance is based on flimsy evidence and unproven strategies. The DOJ’s findings report’s claims of systemic bias in Baltimore were largely based on deeply contested “disparate impact theory” which the Supreme Court ruled could not be solely deduced from a demographic imbalance. Although, the basic tenets of social science observe correlation is not causality or proof of nefarious intent, the alleged violations are often premised on mildly disproportionate ratios to “prove” an institutionalbias. Simply overlaying crime hotspots in Baltimore would explain the differences almost entirely.”
When you read one consent decree, you’ve pretty much read them all. They interchange a high profile police incident with the overall demographic policing data with stops and arrests and compare that to the overall population. If the arrests, etc. do not mirror the population, they jump the shark to “systematic racism.” But as this report points out along with any researcher that wants to keep their tenure, that comparison falls flat. Law enforcement responds to crime and unless those committing crime mirror the overall population, disparity will exist.
The Minneapolis report’s flaws extend to conflating “chokeholds” with “neck restraints,” alleging a practice (i.e., shooting into a moving vehicle) is “dangerous” despite their writ being to determine if it was unconstitutional, and asserting claims about excessive force or disproportionate police stops without explaining their methodology.
It is embarrassing that law enforcement leaders have failed to properly respond to what the DOJ repeatedly says about the agencies they investigate. If the reports were an op-ed in the New York Times I would understand it but they are supposedly legitimate investigations that are all too often either flat out wrong or lies by omission. This is why there has never been a consent decree imposed when an agency demands that evidence be shown in front of a federal judge before entering into it. A few agencies have demanded this and the DOJ simply runs to another jurisdiction.
It’s Time To Lead
Thanks to to LEDLF, Bob Scales, and a few other bold leaders, DOJ pushed consent decrees are no longer a shadowy process that few know anything about. Those that participate in the scam, while knowing the truth, are worse than those perpetuating it.
Snake oil salesmen will always exist but they rely on the dumb, weak and cowardly to give what they sale credit.
There are no more excuses.
Until next time…Lead On & Stay Courageous.
Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.
This article originally appeared on Substack.