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DOJ Case Against Louisville Police Expected To Take Years

The settlement in principle to negotiate a policing consent decree announced Wednesday between the U.S. Department of Justice and the city of Louisville could put the city's police department under a microscope for years to come. The agreement comes after DOJ released its investigative report, finding reasonable cause to believe the city and Louisville police "engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of their rights under the Constitution and federal law." In Seattle, where a consent decree was issued in 2012 after a Native American wood carver was shot to death by police when crossing the street in front of a cruiser, the court-enforced accord is still in force 13 years later. It has cost taxpayers $100 million. The first step in Louisville will be for the city to finalize its agreement on police reforms with DOJ’s civil rights division, Mayor Craig Greenberg said Thursday, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

When it is finalized, the consent decree will be submitted to a federal judge for enforcement. The court will select a monitor — usually a lawyer or a retired police official from another jurisdiction ― to report on the city’s progress, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said. The monitor, who will issue periodic reports, could recommend the end of federal supervision when the city is in compliance. DOJ found that Louisville police use excessive force and discriminate against Black residents and the mentally ill, among other problems, recommending 36 remedial measures. If Seattle, where 500 officers left after a consent decree went into effect, is any guide, the agreement in Louisville is likely to generate opposition among rank-and-file officers. DOJ has conducted hundreds of preliminary inquiries into police departments and at least 73 formal investigations since 1994, when Congress gave it that authority. Targets have included police departments from Buffalo to Beverly Hills, including those with as few as six officers and as many as 1,700. Conservatives and police have attacked the decrees. President Trump called them a “war on cops,” and his first attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said they were a “dangerous ... exercise of raw power” and an “end run around the democratic process.” The nonpartisan Center for American Progress found that in 10 departments it analyzed, violent crime rates declined after they fulfilled reform agreements and were released from consent decrees.

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