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Biden DOJ taking new actions to monitor police departments nationwide

Police car lights (Viorel Margineanu/Dreamstime/TNS)
September 13, 2021

President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice will be launching new efforts involving court-appointed monitors who oversee police departments across the United States, expanding already-existing tools the DOJ uses to force departments’ compliance with its standards.

During a speech at the 2021 International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference on Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the expansion, asserting that more is needed than current consent decrees, monitorships and investigations of police departments.

Garland said a review conducted by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta led to the DOJ establishing 19 new actions that are designed to improve the “efficiency and efficacy” of consent decrees and monitorships.

The actions include capping monitors’ fees, establishing terms that can only be renewed after performance review, creating standards that monitors apply across the board, incentivizing monitors to efficiently end consent decrees and requiring monitors to “engage in sustained and meaningful community engagement.”

“Those investigations and the resulting settlements have led to significant improvements in police departments across the country. That, in turn, increases community trust, which is essential to making your difficult jobs safer and more effective,” Garland said. “It is also no secret that the monitorships associated with some of those settlements have led to frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community.”

Garland also noted that the DOJ is working to make consent decrees more efficient by requiring court hearings within five years to make sure police departments are complying with federal standards.

“We will require our consent decrees to include a court hearing after no more than five years, to assess whether termination of the decree is warranted,” Garland said. “To the extent that full compliance has not yet been achieved, departments will be invited to ask a court for partial termination and to use the hearing as an opportunity to make a plan for getting over the finish line.”

The announcement comes on the heels of a year marked by Democrat support for widespread calls to defund the police, leading to police department staffing shortages nationwide.

“I am reminded every day that police officers are public servants, who step in to keep their communities safe in extraordinarily difficult situations. One of the most painful examples, of course, was a day that is on all of our minds this week: 9/11. This weekend, I was at ground zero to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the attack,” Garland remarked. “Twenty years later, the loss and destruction of that day is still too much to comprehend. So, too, is the bravery that was exhibited by the NYPD and the city’s other first responders, so many of whom sacrificed their lives to save others.”

“We can never replace the incalculable loss of that day, but we will never stop striving to serve in a way that honors their legacy. At the Justice Department, we believe that policing is an indispensable profession,” he continued. “And we know that the IACP and law enforcement officers across the country are our indispensable partners. The Justice Department cannot fulfill its public safety mission without you and without close collaboration with you.”