Three Whites Killed in Alleged CA Racial Attack

“These were unprovoked attacks,” says Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer. Kori Ali Muhammad, who is in custody, told police he wanted to kill as many white people as he could.

Three men were having a seemingly ordinary day in downtown Fresno, California, before they were singled out at random and killed by a black gunman targeting white victims, police said. The men happened to be on the same block, but had no known connection to each other or to the shooter, Kori Ali Muhammad, who told police he wanted to kill as many white people as he could before he was captured, reports the Associated Press.

A 34-year-old father of two preschoolers was on the job when he was shot yesterday in the passenger seat of a Pacific Gas & Electric utility truck. The driver wasn’t hit and sped toward the police department, but his partner couldn’t be saved. A 37-year-old man had just picked up a bag of groceries at a Catholic Charities building when he was gunned down. The third victim, a 59-year-old man, was gunned down in the parking of the Catholic Charities building. “These were unprovoked attacks,” said Police Chief Jerry Dyer. Muhammad, 39, is in custody and is expected to be charged with four counts of murder, for yesterday’s three victims and 25-year-old Motel 6 security guard, Carl Williams, another white man Muhammad shot last week.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Book Explores Black Culpability in Creating Mass Incarceration

James Forman Jr., a Yale law professor and former public defender in Washington, D.C., explores the culpability of black politicians, criminal justice officials, clergy members, activists and others in creating mass incarceration. His book is “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.”

James Forman Jr., a Yale law professor and former public defender in Washington, D.C., explores the culpability of African Americans in creating mass incarceration in his new book, “Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America.” The New York Times says the”superb and shattering” book pivots on the question of how people, acting with the finest of intentions and the largest of hearts, could create a problem even more grievous than the one they were trying to solve. Referring to Washington, he writes, “How did a majority-black jurisdiction end up incarcerating so many of its own?”

Forman’s is compassionate. Seldom does he reprimand the actors in this story for the choices they made. When he discusses policy decisions first made in the 1970s, the audience knows what’s eventually coming — that a grossly disproportionate number of African-American men will become ensnared in the criminal justice system — but none of the players do. Not the clergy or the activists; not the police chiefs or the elected officials; not the newspaper columnists or the grieving parents. The legions of African Americans who lobbied for more punitive measures to fight gun violence and drug dealing in their own neighborhoods didn’t know that their real-time responses to crises would result in the inhuman outcome of mass incarceration.

from https://thecrimereport.org

The Immigration Crackdown: Is Anywhere Safe?

In our continuing series highlighting jurisdictions to watch as efforts to deport the undocumented multiply, John Jay researcher Daniel Stageman examines Alamance County in North Carolina, where a civil rights suit stopped local law enforcement from enforcing detention orders. Will it get new life under Trump?

Media and public attention on immigration enforcement has become vital in light of the Trump Administration’s continued impact on the news cycle.

The President’s announcement during his joint address to Congress in February that he was open to ‘compromise on immigration reform’ may not be a deliberate distraction from ongoing developments in enforcement and detention, but it attracted significant media attention that might otherwise have been turned elsewhere.

Among the substantive immigration enforcement developments that this and similar high-profile public announcements from the White House pushed out of the headlines were the increasingly aggressive actions of ICE agents themselves, who appear after the reversal of Obama-era discretion policies to be making symbolic arrests that sow fear among immigrant populations.

Some of these arrests seem tailor-made to communicate the message that literally nowhere is safe.

That undermines any sense of security that might be taken from sanctuary cities or sanctuary campuses. Perhaps more importantly, the arrests undermine the participation of undocumented immigrants (and, frequently, their US citizen children) in constitutionally protected human rights like public education and public safety.

This widespread sense of fear and insecurity compounds two other current issues regarding immigration control: the enormous and growing backlog of federal immigration cases—in a context where immigrants will now be nearly universally subject to mandatory detention while asylum and other immigration cases are under review; and the now-public efforts of DHS to quickly and significantly expand detention capacity by as many as 20,000 beds.

That suggests John Kelly, head of the Department of Homeland Security, expects a nearly 50% increase in the current “average daily population” (ADP) of 41,000 immigrants in detention on any given day.

Such an expansion will not only represent a windfall for private/for-profit detention providers like CoreCivic (formerly the Corrections Corporation of America) and the GEO Group, but also for the county sheriffs who operate local jails with spare beds that can be leased to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through intergovernmental service agreements (IGSAs) for what is often a lucrative per diem fee.

This phenomenon will likely be especially pronounced in jurisdictions along the US-Mexico border, where the ending of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) “catch-and-release” policy will mean yet another influx of new detainees.

Another key question is how the new hardline approach will work in counties where the 287g agreement is no longer in effect.  One example:  Alamance County in North Carolina.

The Alamance County Sheriffs’ Office (ACSO) lost its 287g agreement in 2012 in the midst of federal civil rights litigation alleging racial profiling of Latinos under the auspices of the program.  Thus, signing a new 287g with the ACSO would be a clear repudiation of Obama-era enforcement policy.

Such repudiations are arguably the Trump administration’s stock-in-trade across a whole spectrum of policy arenas, but the symbolism of entering an enforcement agreement with a jurisdiction previously under investigation for civil rights violations would be particularly telling.

The Alamance County Sheriff, Terry S. Johnson, appears in many of his public statements to be an ideologue in the mold of some other sheriffs previously covered in this series, if somewhat less outspoken. Perhaps the most significant differences between Alamance and the other jurisdictions we have examined are demographic. Alamance, with a population of about 150,000 has had a large and growing Latino community since the 1990s—accounting in the last census for over 11% of the county’s population.

From the perspective of those fighting the current administration’s immigration policies, the cancellation of its 287g agreement makes it an important jurisdiction.  Its 287g was ended  through the intervention of a tool—federal civil rights litigation—that is unlikely to be available to advocates under the current administration.

What other kinds of litigation or approaches to grassroots organizing remain possible in the face of an emboldened immigration enforcement apparatus?  That has yet to be tested, but a renewed 287g agreement in Alamance County would arguably represent an attack on civil rights and constitutional protections necessitating an early test of these strategies.

Using the format I applied in previous profiles of “jurisdictions to watch,” here is a closer look at Alamance County.

 ALAMANCE COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA

Graham, North Carolina. County seat of Alamance County. Photo by Doug Kerr via Flickr

SHERIFF

Terry S. Johnson, a Republican, has been Alamance County Sheriff since 2002, and is currently under consideration for an appointment to the US Marshals Service under the Trump administration. Johnson, who was accused under the Department of Justice’s 2012 investigation of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) of referring to Spanish speakers as “taco eaters”, “received support [for his appointment] from every sheriff in the other 23 counties in the U.S. Middle District of North Carolina.”

The Department of Justice brought suit against Johnson himself (rather than the ACSO as a whole) in 2012, after he categorized the DOJ’s findings in their initial investigation as “completely false. ”In what was then a first for the DOJ’s civil rights actions against law enforcement agencies, the Department lost its case against Johnson in 2015, with US District Judge Thomas D. Schroeder finding that the government had not proved its argument.

While the DOJ originally appealed the verdict, it dropped that appeal in August of 2016.

ARRESTEES PROCESSED FOR DEPORTATION UNDER 287G

280 in 2012.  That number is significantly lower than the annual average of 355 that the ACSO achieved in the five preceding years of 287g enforcement, and it likely reflected the pressure that the ongoing DOJ investigation put the department under.

Alamance County’s population of 150,000 was 11% Hispanic or Latino according to the 2010 census.  So if most of the arrestees processed for deportation were Latino county residents, around 2% of this community was directly affected on an annual basis. Given the likely indirect effects of this enforcement on children, partners, other family members, and the community at large, Alamance’s immigrant population may have long been familiar with the level of stress and uncertainty currently being experienced by immigrant communities nationwide.

ACTIVE IMMIGRANT DETENTION FACILITIES

The Intergovernmental Service Agreement through which ICE contracted with the Alamance County Jail to provide bed space for immigrant detainees appears to have been rescinded along with the county’s 287g MOA in late 2012. At its 2010-11 peak, however, its average of 45 immigrant detainees would have made up 15% of the jail’s average daily population of 300. As recently as 2016, the ACSO shuttered a 76-bed detention center “annex” as a cost-saving measure; as discussed above, there is a clear incentive to monetize this excess bed space under the Trump administration’s expansion of detention capacity.

AVERAGE DAILY POPULATION (ADP) OF IMMIGRANT DETAINEES

The Alamance County Jail held an average of 29 immigrant detainees on any given day throughout 2012. This represents a significant drop-off from the approximate ADP of 89 when the county first signed its 287g MOA in 2007. With a per diem of $61, the ACSO’s detention and related operations yielded $2.6 million from ICE that year – $1.87 million for detention, and $730 thousand for transportation.

Alamance’s reduced 2012 ADP indicates a partnership going out of favor in the face of the DOJ’s ongoing civil rights investigation. Under these reduced circumstances, ADP income would likely have been cut by over 50% from documented 2007 levels ($71 x 29 detainees x 365 days) to $750,000 for detention alone. Alamance’s 2007 IGSA gives us the ability to further estimate a proportional income from transportation of $275,000 (730k/541 = $1,350 per detainee in 2007, or $1,565 x 176 total detainees in 2012).

Thus even under DOJ investigation, Alamance probably cleared $1 million in funding for detention and transportation of deportable immigrants. Interestingly, the total funding that could be directly attributed to Alamance’s enforcement activity under 287g—about $1.64 million ($71x 280 processed for deportation x 60-day average stay = $1.2m, + 280 x $1,565=$440k)—is in fact 60% higher than the amount the recorded ADP suggests, illustrating the clear budgetary importance of maintaining the appearance of unbiased enforcement under the Obama-era DHS.

HISTORY OF 287G IN ALAMANCE COUNTY

Alamance County entered into its 287g enforcement agreement in 2007, as part of a wave of several North Carolina jurisdictions that joined that year. The ACSO’s original 287g memorandum of agreement was an agreement for jail enforcement only, adding a cautionary note to statements by other 287g-supporting sheriffs that jail enforcement agreements are intrinsically safer than street enforcement agreements or comparatively free of bias.

The crux of the DOJ’s case against Johnson was research indicating that Latinos in Alamance County were significantly more likely than other ethnicities to be stopped at ACSO roadblocks and for minor traffic violations, and more likely to be arrested rather than warned or cited when stopped. This largely replicated the enforcement patterns cited in criticisms that characterized 287g task-force agreements as biased and reliant on profiling.

The material difference between task-force and jail-based 287g agreements lies in the fact that interrogation about immigration status takes place within the confines of the county jail in the case of the latter, and in the public view for the former. This difference does not inoculate jail enforcement agreements from patterns of arrest intended to yield higher numbers of detentions and deportations.

CONTEXT OF CONTINUED IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT UNDER 287G IN ALAMANCE COUNTY  

As discussed above, whether under Sheriff Johnson during his remaining time in office, or under his successor at a later date, the reentry of an emboldened Alamance County Sheriff’s Office into the 287g fold would represent a clear symbolic break from Obama-era cautions around profiling-based immigration enforcement by local jurisdictions.

To renew an agreement with Alamance would arguably represent an implicit statement—at most hinted at in Trump’s January 25th Executive Orders and the follow-up Kelly memo—that racial profiling and other forms of biased enforcement would be tacitly acceptable for local jurisdictions acting in support of the administration’s stated detention and deportation goals.

Even in the context of an emboldened ICE and an increasingly indiscriminate immigrant detention and deportation regime, this tacit approval of unconstitutional policing practices would represent a new and extreme departure from established professional law enforcement standards.

Daniel Stageman

It would also be a redirection of the federal civil rights apparatus (encompassing both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security) that has long been tasked with supporting them. Advocates and other close observers may well be expecting this departure, but would do well to keep an eye on Alamance County to see if it is confirmed.

Daniel L. Stageman, PhD is Director of Research Operations at CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He is also a criminologist whose scholarship focuses on making sense of America’s punitive approach to immigrants. He can be contacted at dstageman(at)jjay.cuny.edu. Other articles in his series are archived on The Crime Report: Etowah County, AL;    Frederick County, Md.; and Orange County, Ca.;  Read Dr. Stageman’s introduction to the series, “Where Will Trump’s Deportation Force Strike Hardest?” here. Readers’ comments are welcome.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Is Plea Bargaining Color Blind?

A guilty plea is likely to win you less leniency in sentencing if you’re an African-American male, according to a study published in Justice Quarterly this month. With 95% of all convictions the result of guilty pleas—many of them arranged through plea bargaining—the study authors argue that more attention needs to be paid to potential bias in the early phases of case processing.

Black male defendants are less likely to receive lower sentences when they agree to plead guilty  than black females or whites of both genders, a new study found.

The study, published this month in Justice Quarterly, based its findings on data from 907  felony cases represented by public defenders in a circuit court in one of Florida’s larger counties.

The authors— Christi Metcalfe, an assistant professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal justice at the University of South Carolina; and Ted Chiricos, professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida State University—examined the factors that predict likelihood of plea across race and gender, and potential racial disparities in the plea value regarding charge reduction.

The study findings suggest that black defendants –and black males in particular—are less likely to plead guilty than white defendants, the authors said, adding that when guilty pleas are entered, black male defendants get the worst value for their plea.

While the authors say the data is not sufficient to conclude that the disparities are due to racial or gender bias, they argue that many defendants behave as if they assume such biases exist, further distorting justice system outcomes.

“If plea bargaining is viewed as advantageous for its more lenient sentencing outcomes, it appears that black males, and to a lesser extent white males, are disadvantaged in a system that relies heavily on plea bargaining”—particularly when, as the authors note, 95% of all convictions are the result of a guilty plea.

This study is available for purchase. Journalists can receive a full copy of the report by contacting Victoria Mckenzie at victoria@thecrimereport.org. A summary is available here.

This summary was prepared by TCR intern Davi Hernandez

 

from https://thecrimereport.org

DOJ Issues Toolkit on Policing, Communities of Color

Russ Washington, acting director of DOJ’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said the new guide “provides practical and tangible strategies to help law enforcement officers build and maintain trust with the diverse communities they serve.”

The U.S. Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services Office (COPS) today released a new toolkit with resources to help build relationships of trust between law enforcement agencies and communities of color. The material was produced in partnership with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

DOJ said that, “Bridging the Trust Gap Between Law Enforcement and Communities of Color” discusses “challenges that often plague law enforcement and communities of color, while offering proven strategies for success in overcoming those challenges and developing communities of trust.” Acting COPS Director Russ Washington said the toolkit “provides practical and tangible strategies to help law enforcement officers build and maintain trust with the diverse communities they serve.” The online toolkit is intended to be a resource for officers at all levels and to community members seeking guidance on ways to engage local law enforcement.

from https://thecrimereport.org

Black Pols Push Back Against Trump’s ‘Urban Carnage’ Views

At a White House sit-down, the Congressional Black Caucus presented Trump with a 130-page policy proposal with a taunting title: “We Have a Lot to Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century.”

Leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus met with President  Trump on Wednesday about infrastructure and reducing urban crime, calling the sit-down a “positive” first step toward finding common ground, reports Reuters. The lawmakers presented Trump with a 130-page policy proposal titled “We Have a Lot to Lose: Solutions to Advance Black Families in the 21st Century,” a reference to Trump’s repeated query on the campaign trail asking what did blacks have to lose by supporting him.

Many black leaders have criticized his depiction of urban areas as crime-ridden war zones and his false claims that the first black U.S. president, Barack Obama, was born abroad. At the start of the meeting, Trump said he was serious about his promise to help African-Americans. “Every American child has a right to grow up in a safe community, to attend great schools, to graduate with access to high-paying jobs,” Trump said during the portion of the meeting open to reporters. But the relationship between blacks and Trump is fraught. Caucus chairman Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from Louisiana, said many  constituents had urged him not to meet with Trump “because of the rhetoric.”Richmond said, “We expressed that to him, because we’re certainly very clear of the emotions of African-Americans around the country.”

from http://thecrimereport.org

Report Cites Mass Incarceration, ‘Racial Achievement Gap’

When parents are incarcerated, children do worse across both cognitive and noncognitive outcome measures, and the incarceration issues are a key cause, says a report from the Economic Policy Institute.

By the age of 14, about 25 percent of African-American children have experienced a parent — in most cases a father — being imprisoned for some period of time. On any given school day, about 10 percent of African-American schoolchildren have a parent who is in jail or prison, more than four times the share in 1980. The comparable share for white children is 4 percent; an African-American child is six times as likely as a white child to have or have had an incarcerated parent, reports the Washington Post. A growing share of African Americans have been arrested for drug crimes, yet African Americans are no more likely than whites to sell or use drugs. Of imprisoned fathers of African-American children, only one-third are in prison because of a violent crime.

Research demonstrates that when parents are incarcerated, children do worse across cognitive and noncognitive outcome measures, and the incarceration issues are a key cause. For example, children of incarcerated parents are more likely to drop out of school; develop learning disabilities; misbehave in school; suffer from migraines, asthma, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and homelessness. These are findings from a new report released by the nonprofit Economic Policy Institute that says the “evidence is overwhelming that the unjustified incarceration of African-American fathers (and, increasingly, mothers as well) is an important cause of the lowered performance of their children” and of the racial achievement gap.

from http://thecrimereport.org

Verdicts Can Be Tossed Over Racism, Says 5-3 High Court

Court majority says Colorado man accused of sexual battery may deserve a new trial because a juror made discriminatory comments about Mexicans such as him during private deliberations. Dissenter Samuel Alito calls the decision a “startling development” that “pries open” the privacy of the jury room.

Racism in jury deliberations is so insidious that verdicts can be thrown out even after convictions, a divided Supreme Court ruled today, USA Today reports. A majority of justices said Miguel Angel Peña-Rodriguez, a Colorado man accused of sexual battery, may deserve a new trial because a juror made discriminatory comments about Mexicans such as him during private deliberations. The comments were reported by fellow jurors only after the verdict was in. “Racial bias implicates unique historical, constitutional, and institutional concerns,” wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy, joined by four liberal justices. “An effort to address the most grave and serious statements of racial bias is not an effort to perfect the jury but to ensure that our legal system remains capable of coming ever closer to the promise of equal treatment under the law that is so central to a functioning democracy.”

The court ruled 5-3 for Peña-Rodriguez even though state and federal rules seek to protect jury verdicts from challenge after the fact, based on the sanctity of the jury room. “The court not only pries open the door; it rules that respecting the privacy of the jury room, as our legal system has done for centuries, violates the Constitution,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in dissent, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas. “This is a startling development, and although the court tries to limit the degree of intrusion, it is doubtful that there are principled grounds for preventing the expansion of today’s holding.” It was the second high court ruling in 12 days implicating racial overtones in court proceedings. Last month, the justices ruled 6-2 that a Texas death row inmate deserved a new sentencing hearing because of racially discriminatory testimony presented by his own defense team.

 

 

 

from http://thecrimereport.org

Police Racial Disparity Study Finds Illinois The Worst

Example found in North Carolina study: If you are black and were driving in Evanston, Il., in 2014, it was seven times more likely than if you were white that if police officers stopped your car, they would search you,

If you are black and were driving in Evanston, Il., in 2014, it was seven times more likely that if police officers stopped your car they would search you than if you are white, reports Injustice Watch. Researchers at the University of North Carolina documented that disparity as part of what may be the largest study of traffic stops ever collected, analyzing 55 million stops based on data from 132 different agencies in 16 states. Across the board, researchers found that stops by law enforcement officers led to searches if the drivers are black and Hispanic far more commonly than if they are white. Four Illinois law enforcement agencies stand out in the study: the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, the Evanston Police Department, the Chicago Police Department and the Palatine Police Department.

The study examined, by race, what percentage of traffic stops turned into searches year by year as far back as 1999. It lists the 10 agencies that, in any single year, had the most disproportionate stops.  For stops comparing white drivers and black drivers, the Evanston Police Department took up six of those 10 spots, having a strikingly disproportionate ratio each year between 2009 and 2014. The Chicago Police Department was listed in three of the four remaining spots. For searches of Hispanic drivers compared to their white counterparts, the Cook County Sheriff over a four-year period between 2008 and 2011 had the four most disproportionate ratios of any studied agencies. In 2009, the worst single year, it was more than 18 times more likely a Hispanic driver than a white driver would be searched after a stop by Cook County sheriff deputies.

from http://thecrimereport.org

Can Policing Really Change? Ten Lessons From the DOJ’s ‘Pattern or Practice’ Bias Probes

The Justice Department’s program to investigate local police departments for bias and other violations of constitutional rights is 20 years old this year. One of the nation’s leading experts on policing draws 10 encouraging lessons from the story so far.

The Justice Department “pattern or practice” program to investigate local police departments for violations of constitutional rights is 20 years old this year. There have been 30 settlements with departments since the first consent decree with Pittsburgh in 1997.

It’s therefore an appropriate time to assess the program’s  impact. What has it achieved? Has it effectively reduced police misconduct?

Has it been cost-effective?

Samuel Walker

Here are 10 quick lessons I’ve drawn from my own research as well as from the 20-year report published by the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in January.

1.Consent Decrees Represent an Historic Attempt to Identify Roots of Police Misconduct

The pattern-and-practice program has been an unprecedented event in American police history. Never before has the Justice Department undertaken such an intense scrutiny of local departments for the purpose of ending systemic abuses, and reducing—if not eliminating—racial and ethnic disparities. Because of the Civil Rights Division’s broad investigatory powers, it has been able to identify the underlying causes of police misconduct. The investigation into Ferguson, Missouri, for example uncovered the shocking evidence that the city pressured the police department to generate revenue government operations.

2.They’ve Been (Generally) Successful

Evaluations of several departments have found that consent decrees have generally  been successful in achieving their goals. A Harvard evaluation of the consent decree involving the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD)found the LAPD “much changed,” and “quality and the quantity of [law] enforcement activity have risen substantially” because of the consent decree. Evaluations of the LAPD by racial and ethnic minorities had improved. That is quite an achievement for a department with a long history of racial controversy. True, there has been backsliding in some departments, but in no case has a DOJ settlement completely failed.

3.But Are They Sustainable?

Serious questions remain about whether court-ordered reforms are sustained over the long-term. In Pittsburgh, for example, a new mayor with close ties to the police union promptly fired the reform-minded chief, and police practices began reverting to their own ways. The sustainable issue is extremely important, and cannot be ignored. If the reforms cannot be sustained, then the whole effort has not been worth it. The evidence, I think, points to a guardedly optimistic view: cases of documented success and no cases of complete failure.

4.The Organization is the Problem

The DOJ program consolidated the view, already developing among police experts, that establishing professional and constitutional policing requires systemic organizational reform. The report on the Albuquerque police department found that “the use of excessive force by APD officers is not isolated or sporadic. [It] stems from systemic deficiencies in oversight, training, and policy.” All the reports on other departments reached the same conclusion. In short, officer misconduct is not the result of the proverbial “bad apples” but of systemic poor management.

5.Identifying Best Practices is Critical

To achieve systemic organizational reform, the DOJ program has defined a specific set of “best practices.” These include: state of the art polices on officer use of force, including strict force reporting and review requirements; an early intervention system (EIS) to track officer performance and identify officers with persistent performance problems; and an open and accessible citizen complaint procedure. Prior to the DOJ program, there was no equivalent list of accountability-related best practices in policing.

6.Accountability Begins at the Supervisor Level

The DOJ program has illuminated the appalling details of on-the-street officer misconduct. In Seattle, for example, DOJ found “multiple cases in which SPD officers failed to report the use of force at all.” In Cleveland “officers use their guns to strike people in the head in circumstances where the use of deadly force is not justified.” Cleveland officers also “commit tactical errors that endanger themselves and other members of the community and may result in the use of excessive force.” Accountability collapses because supervisors “make little effort to determine the level of force that was used and whether it was justified. In some cases, supervisors take steps to justify a use of force that, on its face, was unreasonable.”

7.Police “Culture” Needs Re-thinking

The program has provided new insights into the much-discussed “police culture.” It is not the result of the recruitment of unqualified individuals. The department ignores and tolerates inappropriate attitudes and behavior. In Albuquerque, the DOJ report found that “The department’s lack of internal oversight has allowed a culture of aggression to develop. This culture is manifested in the routine nature of excessive force and lack of corrective actions taken by the leadership . . . the department’s training, permissive policy on weapons, . . . and the harsh approaches to ordinary encounters with residents.”

8.Consent Decrees Can Pay for Themselves

Criticisms about the financial cost of consent decrees have raised questions about the true “costs” of both police misconduct and police reform. The direct financial costs of a consent decree involve procedures and equipment that a department should have adopted years before. In Cleveland, for example, “basic equipment is either outdated or nonexistent.” For example, “Not all of CDP’s zone cars have computers and, of those that do, the computers do not all reliably work.” The costs of providing modern, up-to-date equipment should not  be blamed on the consent decree.

Additionally, many cities have been paying out enormous funds in civil litigation over police misconduct. Chicago paid out $50 million in 2014 alone. Consent decree-related reforms have succeeded in reducing misconduct and payouts from civil litigation, which represent a long-term cost saving. A full, long-term accounting may well find that consent decrees reduce the costs of policing over time.

Finally, a full accounting also needs to take into account the human and social costs that reforms in most departments have reduced.

9.Tracking Policing Reforms is Essential

The DOJ program has illuminated the enormous challenge of evaluating systemic organizational reform in police departments. Policing involves many important issues: officer uses of force; the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities; disciplinary procedures; citizen complaints and public perceptions of the department, among others. Tracking changes in all of them is a daunting challenge, and police researches need to develop comprehensive and manageable evaluation models.

10. This is (or Should Be) Just the Beginning

Finally, the history of the program highlights the impact of politics and police reform. Two Democratic Party presidents (Bill Clinton and Barak Obama) aggressively pursued the pattern or practice program, while one Republican Party president (George W. Bush) backed away from it, and the new Republican Party president appears hostile to it.

In the end, even allowing for some backsliding, the DOJ pattern or practice program has achieved significant reforms in departments subject to consent decrees.

Most important, the program has made a significant contribution to policing by defining a set of “best practices” necessary for constitutional and bias-free policing. Serious questions remain, however, about how to transform large public bureaucracies and about the long-term sustainability of court-ordered reforms.

These and other questions raised by the DOJ’s program demand further investigation by police experts.

NOTE: A more comprehensive version of Prof. Walker’s analysis can be downloaded here.

 Samuel Walker is Professor Emeritus of Criminal Justice at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and the author of 14 books on policing, civil liberties and crime police. His new blog can be read here.  Readers’ comments are welcome.

from http://thecrimereport.org