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DOJ Backing Away from Oversight of Police Departments with Consent Decrees

April 28, 2017, on Criminal Defense Articles |

Some police departments throughout the United States have been accused of not respecting the civil rights of community members. In particular, there have been specific police departments which have been found to violate people's rights and some of these departments have agreed to reforms. The Department of Justice sued certain departments, for example, and consent decrees were created to resolve the cases by ensuring that police departments would make agreed-upon changes.

Now, however, an opinion piece in the Washington Post suggests that the Department of Justice may be backing away from enforcing the agreements reached in consent decrees and may be making plans to reduce oversight of police departments in general. If this happens, this could potentially give rise to more civil rights abuses on the part of law enforcement officers.

Schenectady criminal defense attorneys can provide legal assistance to anyone who is questioned by the police or who has an encounter with law enforcement and who is concerned about protecting his or her rights. Having an attorney advocate could become even more essential if police are subject to less federal oversight governing their conduct.

Will the DOJ Stop Monitoring Police Departments for Civil Rights Violations?

According to the article in the Washington Post, Attorney General Jeff Sessions told reporters he was not certain if the DOJ would implement reforms that the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division previously recommended for the Chicago Police Department under President Obama.

Sessions said he had seen reports completed by the Obama Justice Department and he was not convinced by the evidence contained within those reports because it was anecdotal and not scientific. The Washington Post editorial acknowledges the report does contain anecdotes but indicates that this is a result of the fact the Chicago PD is bad at keeping records. Further, the anecdotal evidence is believed by many to provide sufficient proof of police abuses and thus to justify reforms of the Department, which the DOJ should oversee.

Sessions has also ordered the Department of Justice to review all consent decrees which were entered into by police departments with the DOJ under the previous administration. Chicago isn't yet operating under a consent decree, but an agreement is pending and its future is now uncertain. 

According to a different Washington Post article,  Sessions has indicated he doesn't want the consent decrees to work against the goal of fighting crime and the goal of boosting police morale. There are currently 14 consent decrees being enforced after investigations revealed police departments were violating people's civil rights.

While it is unclear exactly what will happen with the Department of Justice, preliminary evidence seems to suggest that monitoring police for civil rights abuses is going to be less of a priority under this administration.

Those who are involved in any legal matter with the police should be represented by criminal defense attorneys in all of their interactions with law enforcement.  The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC can help to ensure that the law is followed and constitutional rights are respected. To find out more about how an attorney can help you, give us a call today.

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