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Negotiated Justice? The Legal, Administrative, and Policy Implications of 'Pattern or Practice' Police Misconduct Reform

NCJ Number
Date Published
444 pages
This is the first theoretically driven, comparative examination of the U.S. Justice Department's (DOJ's) enforcement of Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act ("pattern or practice" reform), which grants the DOJ authority to "obtain appropriate equitable and declaratory relief to eliminate the pattern or practice...of conduct by law enforcement officers...that deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the U.S. Constitution or laws of the United States."

This study examined settlement reform efforts instituted between the DOJ and offending police departments in four jurisdictions: Pittsburgh, PA; Washington, DC; Cincinnati, OH; and Prince George's County, MD. The study found that each department faced significant and varied challenges in implementing three settlement components: use-of-force policy change, creation of early warning systems, and the development of citizen complaint investigation protocols. Despite the delays and other complications associated with the implementation of the settlement components, each jurisdiction achieved "substantial compliance" with settlement mandates and was released from Federal oversight within 5 to 7 years of the original settlement date. Several factors were related to variations in the speed and comprehensiveness of the settlement reforms. These factors included the complexity of joint action, agency and jurisdictional resources, active and capable police leadership, and support from local political leaders. The research also identified the critical and unique role of independent monitors charged with overseeing the reform process. This analysis of the settlement implementation process did not address any departmental issues beyond the department's implementation of the settlement mandates, such as the impacts of the reforms achieved. The study did examine factors related to the sustainability of the reform. After completing case studies of each jurisdiction, the author developed an analytical framework that described and evaluated the implementation of pattern or practice reform. 26 tables, 40 figures, and an extensive list of references

Date Published: January 1, 2011