The Department of Justice has forced the Detroit Police Department to revise its protocols. In 6 years, only 1 suspect has died, chemical spraying is down 90%, and fatal shootings are down down 60% from pre-decree levels. On Monday, August 25, Federal Judge Avern Cohn allowed the federal government to terminate the 11-year-old agreement with the Detroit Police Department, thus reducing excessive force and making other improvements.
What is a consent decree?
A consent decree is a settlement or agreement that resolves a dispute between two parties without admission of guilt.
What were some of the Detroit Police Department's constitutional violations prior to 2003?
Before the 2003 agreement, the U.S. Justice Department found constitutional violations within the department. Between 1995 and 2000, police killed nearly 50 people, including six people who were unarmed and shot in the back. Nineteen people died while in custody.
Transcript of News Report: "Judge Allows Termination of Detroit Police Department's Federal Oversight"
Devin Skillian: News anchor.
Guy Gordon: Reporter.
Barbara L. McQuade: United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Butch Hollowell: Corporate counsel, City of Detroit.
Reverend Wendell Anthony: President of Detroit Chapter of NAACP, past president of NAACP.
Devin Skillian: The Detroit Police Department has turned an important corner, taking steps to end the 2003 consent decree designed to force reforms within the department, after decades of complaints of civil rights abuses in the department. Our Guy Gordon reports the reforms made here are now being touted as key parts of avoiding the kind of conflict between the community and law enforcement that have erupted in places like Ferguson, Missouri.Details of the consent decree below.Please follow traffic over or under the orange interstate intersection, and by all means, stay in your lane!
Guy Gordon: After 11 years, the Justice Department says the City of Detroit may not have a perfect Police Department, but it does have a constitiutional one. Federal intervention was prompted by deaths in the city lockup, unlawful detention of witnesses, and excessive use-of-force complaints. "In the past 6 years, only 1 suspect has died, chemical spraying has fallen 90%, and fatal shootings are down 60% from pre-decree levels."
Barbara McQuade: In 2000 when we began investigating, the Detroit Police Department didn't even define what was force. Today they have a use-of-force policy that is a model for policing.
Guy Gordon: The DOJ says Detroit is 90% compliant. Incident reports need to be more timely, and mandates for in-car cameras fall short, but by October, most street patrols should have them. The city's new risk-management system should flag bad apples sooner.
Butch Hollowell: One deals with a car chase. The other deals with the use of force, and the final one deals with a citizen complaint. It could be all of those or any combination of those, but that will get flagged in the database, and the officer will then have to come before a peer-review committee.
Guy Gordon: Anti-brutality activists worry the department may backslide.
(Unknown man): Essentially the oversight is going to be there in the way that it was was, an independent person.
Guy Gordon: But one of the loudest critics says, for now, he has confidence.
*Reverend Wendell Anthony: The US Attorney's office has said for the next 18 months they are going to be still monitoring and observing and watching. That gives us concern and a sense of confidence.
Guy Gordon: Thanks to these reforms, the city is saving about 5 million a year in reduced lawsuits against it. It will save another 1 million a year in the cost of monitoring. 6 million a year in savings. That is enough to put 35 new officers on the street. (Judge allows termination of Detroit Police Department's federal oversight (2-minute video of Detroit Channel 4 local TV news broadcast, Aug 25, 2014. [Sorry, unable to embed]).
Consent Decree Q & A
1. Q. What were the major findings of the DOJ investigation?
A. DOJ identified problems in the Detroit Police Department's policies regarding the use of force, in its arrest and detention practices and in the conditions of the holding cells it uses to temporarily confine persons who have been arrested.
2. Q. How long did the DOJ investigation last?
A. Mayor Archer initially requested a DOJ investigation in September 2000 and the investigation began in December 2000.
3. Q. What areas of the police department did the DOJ investigation cover?
A. The investigation covered the department's policies and practices in the use of force, in the arrest and detention of witnesses and in the conditions that exist in the holding cells used to hold newly arrested persons.
4. Q. What does the agreement consist of?
A. It is an agreement between the Department of Justice and the City of Detroit spelling out specific changes that will be made in departmental policy in the areas under review. Among the provisions of the agreement related to the use of force are requirements that the Detroit Police Department:
Revise its policies governing use of force to specify the types of conduct by individuals that would justify the use of various levels of force.
Require Detroit Police officers to successfully qualify with their department-issued firearms every six months.
Select an intermediate force device between chemical spray and firearms for use by officers, such as a collapsible baton.
Revise its chemical spray policy to require a verbal warning and time for a subject to comply with an order prior to the use of chemical spray.
Among the provisions of the agreement related to arrest and witness detention policies are:
The DPD will require written supervisory review of all arrests for probable cause.
The DPD will develop an internal process to ensure prompt judicial review of individuals detained without a warrant.
The DPD will require a court order prior to taking a material witness into custody.
The DPD will require an accurate and auditable record identifying the length and basis of each detention.
Conditions of the agreement related to confinement of prisoners include:
The DPD will develop and implement a comprehensive fire detection, suppression and evacuation program for all holding cells.
The DPD will develop a comprehensive medical and mental health screening program for all persons who are arrested.
The DPD will provide appropriate clothing to all prisoners placed under suicide watch, remove all hazards from holding cells and ensure adequate prisoner checks.
The DPD will ensure that all holding cells are cleaned and sanitary.
Other conditions of the agreement include:
Revised procedures for receiving, investigating and reviewing misconduct allegations.
Enhanced supervisory oversight of incidents involving injury of a prisoner and the use of force.
Expansion and enhancement of the department's risk management system.
Training for all officers and recruits regarding conditions of the agreement between DPD and DOJ.
5. Q. What is the role of the monitor?
A. The monitor provides technical assistance to the department and is in place to ensure that the Detroit Police Department complies with the agreement. The monitor will issue regular reports regarding progress the department is making in implementing the reforms outlined in the agreement.
6. Q. Who will be running the Detroit Police Department?
A. The Mayor and the Chief of Police will continue to run the Police Department. The function of the monitor is to track DPD progress and to report to the community and the DJ on that progress. The monitor does not assume any of the responsibilities of the Mayor or Police Chief.
7. Q. Is this agreement a consent decree?
A. Yes. The agreement entered into today means that the City of Detroit and the Department of Justice have agreed on the reforms that need to be made in the Detroit Police Department and on a timeline for achieving those reforms. This agreement entered into by consent of the City of Detroit and the Department of Justice will be overseen by the court.
8. Q. How will the agreement specifically impact the police department?
A. There will be a significant impact on the way business is conducted in DPD and radical changes to its policies, procedures, culture and tradition. The provisions of the agreement will provide specific and measurable actions that must be taken to ensure that constitutional rights are protected and upheld.
9. Q. What role will the City and police department play in adhering to the agreement?
A. The City of Detroit will provide the necessary support to ensure that the DPD is successful in implementing the provisions of the agreement.
10. Q. Will there be any additional resources (monetary, etc.) needed to meet the criteria outlined in the agreement?
A. Yes, but the exact cost has not yet been calculated. The Mayor said when he came into office that reform of the Detroit Police Department was a top priority, so he will work to make sure the needed funds are in place.
11. Q. Now that an agreement has been reached, what role will the DOJ play going forward?
A. The DOJ will ensure that, via the monitor's active oversight, the DPD adheres to and implements the provisions of this agreement.
12. Q. How long will the provisions/criteria of the agreement last?
A. The provisions related to the use of force and to the arrest and detention of witnesses will be in effect for five years. If the City and the DPD come into compliance with the provisions and have been in compliance for two years, the consent decree will expire in five years. The provisions related to conditions of confinement will terminate in two years if the department and City have been in compliance for at least one year. (Consent Decree Q & A
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