Under Biden, DOJ seeks to overhaul bad police departments - USA Trending Blog

Under Biden, DOJ seeks to overhaul bad police departments - USA Trending Blog

Under Biden, DOJ seeks to overhaul bad police departments - USA Trending Blog

The list of U.S. big-city police departments under federal scrutiny seems to keep growing: Chicago. Minneapolis. Louisville. Seattle and Phoenix.

Now comes Memphis, where the Department of Justice announced Thursday a civil rights investigation into the city and its police force over alleged systemic use of excessive force and discrimination. The probe comes seven months after the beating death of Tyre Nichols by Memphis Police Officers following a traffic stop, in a case that sparked national outcry and calls for police reform. 

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and former federal prosecutor, said an outside investigation and subsequent consent decree are critical for auditing police departments and enforcing change.

“The police cannot police themselves,” Levenson said. 

Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based police research group, said a DOJ investigation is "not something they take lightly." DOJ opens between 10 to 20 such cases annually among 18,000 police departments nationwide.

"It's a major step, no question," Wexler said. "The DOJ wants to take a look and see if Memphis' practices, such as Tyre Nichols, is an isolated case or part of a broader series of patterns."

DOJ probes US police departments over racism, violence

With Memphis, the DOJ now has open investigations into seven law enforcement agencies, including the Louisiana State Police, the New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Divisions and police departments in Phoenix; Mount Vernon, New York; Worcester, Massachusetts; and Oklahoma City. 

The Justice Department has recently completed high-profile investigations in Louisville and Minneapolis, following the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor and the murder of George Floyd, respectively. The DOJ is now negotiating consent decrees in those two cities to address the problems found from the investigations.

consent decree is a federal court order. If a DOJ investigation finds problems in a law enforcement agency, it will enter into a legal agreement with that agency to essentially take over and enforce protocol for change. The decree could include updating current policies or creating new ones, revamping police training and establishing systems of accountability and transparency, according to the Baltimore Police.

Under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the Justice Department's civil rights division has the power to investigate systemic police misconduct.