Department of Justice and City of Detroit move to end federal oversight over DPD

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The Detroit Police Department and the US Department of Justice are moving to end federal oversight of the DPD that has been in place since 2003.

The move comes in a court filing with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. It asks the court to dismiss the Use of Force and Arrest and Witness Detention Consent Judgment that was put into place in July of 2003.

The Use of Force and Arrest and Witness Detention Consent Judgment was one of two that were put into place. The other, the Conditions of Confinement Consent Judgment, was dismissed in January, after the court found that the Detroit Police Department had fully transferred custodial responsibility for pre-arraignment detainees to the Michigan Department of Corrections' Detroit Detention Center. This brought the department into full compliance with that consent judgment.

These consent judgments trace back to a November 2000 investigation by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division and the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Michigan that "revealed a pattern or practice of constitutional violation and a contributing array of systemic deficiencies within the DPD."

The investigation was triggered by a September 2000 request by then Mayor Dennis Archer following a series of fatal shootings. Between 1995 and 2000, DPD officers had fatally shot 47 people, including six unarmed suspects who had been shot in the back.

On top of that, the city had paid out $124 million to settle civil suits against DPD officers between 1987 and 2000. That included $46 million in claims against officers who had previously been sued.

One of the things the report found was that the DPD had "inadequate investigative practices" and had failed to take corrective actions to the pattern of excessive force. In fact, the report called half of the investigations they reviewed inadequate. 

During the course of the review, it was expanded to include issues related to witness detention, including how Detroit arrested more than three individuals per homicide in 1998, yet only solved 47% of the homicides in the city. Those figures were revealed by the 1998 FBI Uniform Crime Report.

Based on the investigation, the city entered into the two Consent Judgments with the Department of Justice. Those judgments called for the appointment of an Independent Monitor who would conducts audits in order to evaluate and report on the city's compliance on a quarterly basis.

As of the September 2011 quarterly report, the city was in full compliance with Phase One of the Consent Judgment. As of the most recent quarterly report, which was dated July 14, 2013, the monitor reported that the city remains in full compliance with Phase One and is 90% in compliance with Phase Two.

In today's filing asking for the dismissal of the Consent Judgment, both sides say that, while full compliance is not yet attained, the Detroit Police Department has "made significant progress towards implementation" of what remains. The filing also says that the remaining issues are with the post-incident documentation and investigative process, not with officer-civilian interactions.

In particular, the remaining issues have to do with "DPD's lack of consistency in completing adequate and timely investigation of use of force incidents and stop-and-frisk encounters."

Other than than, today's filing says that the concerns originally identified by the Department of Justice in 2002 that formed the basis for the need for the Consent Judgments do no exist anymore. The filing lays out a number of statistics as proof, including a sharp decrease in fatal shootings, the use of chemical spray and the DPD's overall use of force rate.

The filing also points out that the Department of Justice has "confirmed that the new policies, procedures, and mechanisms for supervision and accountability implemented by the DPD pursuant to the Consent Judgment have resulted in systemic change and greater constitutional policing."

If the court accepts the arguments put forth by the Department of Justice and the City of Detroit, the Consent Judgment would be canceled and the police department would begin operating under a Transition Agreement that would still be administered by the federal court.

The Transition Agreement would call for the city to conduct department-wide audits of any issues that would have been covered by the Consent Judgment. These audits would be conducted by a DPD officer of a rank no lower that Assistant Chief and in consultation with the Justice Department. The DPD officer would have to be appointed within 30 days of the entry into the Transition Agreement and the first audit would be due on October 31.

Once an audit is completed, the Justice Department would have 45 days to review the report. Once the review is completed and the report is accepted it would be posted on the Detroit Police Department's website for two years. 

If a report is not accepted, the Justice Department has the right, under the agreement,

to seek appropriate relief from the court, which would retain jurisdiction until the Transition Agreement expires after six audit review cycles.

The Transition Agreement puts that date, which would be the end of all federal oversight over the Detroit Police Department, at March 2, 2016.

If the filing is accepted by the court, the Consent Judgment would expire and the Transition Agreement would be put into place, on August 18.

A court date has not been set to hear arguments in the case. 

 

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