There is hardly a week that goes by where you do not hear about another police department being placed under Department of Justice control. This once-rare practice has become almost commonplace with over 20 departments under some degree of Federal oversight. But why? Are there really that many departments so unable to manage their own affairs or are they being bullied into accepting DOJ sanctions?
Year-end statistics are not yet available but, as of late 2015, Cleveland became the 16th department to enter a DOJ decree since the Obama Administration began. This does not include those departments who were already operating under decrees with earlier administrations, some of which can last for a decade or more. To some, this indicates a DOJ more willing to hold departments accountable; to many insiders, it points to a shift in DOJ mindset which causes police to be looked at as the enemy – similar to a career criminal who police are watching, waiting for a chance to swoop in and take them down.
In a December 2014 statement, DOJ officials appeared to support this change in attitude: “In the past fiscal year, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has opened over 20 investigations into police departments, more than twice as many investigations than were opened in the previous 5 years.”
Why the drastic increase? DOJ oversight, generally in the form of consent decrees requiring departments to change training, policies, procedures and even reporting standards were originally the result of investigations alleging violations of one of more of the following federal acts: Violent Crime Control & Law Enforcement Act of 1994, Omnibus Crime Control & Safe Streets Act of 1968 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
These violations included racial profiling, longstanding policies of denying defendants human treatment or Constitutional rights or abuse due to race, religion or membership in one of the other protected classes. More importantly, it required proof that the department was aware of such actions and either condoned it or failed to correct it. However, under then-Attorney General Eric Holder, the DOJ expanded its authority by including “unconscious bias” or actions that were not intentional but based upon “subconscious discriminatory practices”. Nice way around intent. Also a nice way to argue almost any action is motivated by bias.
So, why do departments agree to such oversight? For the same reason some defendants, even those who are later proven not guilty, enter a guilty plea – sometimes David can’t fight Goliath. If a department enters a decree, they are not required to admit guilt. If they do not accept this “settlement,” they face years of Federal probes and investigations – something even large departments cannot afford to defend against. Basically, the consent decree has become akin to official blackmail. Not much different than an officer telling a suspect “I think you did this robbery, but I can’t prove it. So plead to these other charges and enter probation or I’ll follow you every minute of the day until I find something else.”
A common rally cry among criminal justice reformers is “Who will police the police?” Maybe they should be asking “Who will oversee the overseers?”
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.
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