With the end of the Obama administration at hand, there has been a flurry of media interest in the question of the impact of Justice Department “Pattern or Practice” investigations of police department and the reforms mandated by consent decrees. According to a January 2017 report by the Civil Rights Division, since 1997, DOJ has opened 69 formal investigations of law enforcement agencies and reached formal settlements (not all consent decrees) with individual departments. How successful have these settlements been in achieving reform? Sam Walker told the New York Times on January 14, 2017 that while there has been some “backsliding” in some departments, there has been no case of a complete failure. He cited the case of Pittsburgh, where a new mayor who was friendly with the police union, immediately fired the reform-minded chief, and the reforms were allowed to fade away. Los Angeles, on the other hand, has remained generally improved as a result of its consent decree.

Read the New York Times story: DOJ NYT Jan2017