Attorney General Jeff Sessions released a statement from the Department of Justice stating that the proposed consent decree set to dictate the Chicago Police Department’s policies was not necessary and that the Department of Justice would send additional help for the CPD instead.
A consent decree is an agreement made between a local police department and the U.S. government that is approved by a federal judge. The court appoints an independent monitor, who goes into a law enforcement agency, studies the practices of the department, and makes recommendations to alter general department orders in an attempt to curb alleged abuses of power. The use of force through less-lethal weapons, police “brutality,” and shootings are the common reasons for a consent decree.
The monitor oversees the new guidelines, notes the results of changes, and reports back to a federal judge, who then determines whether or not the department is operating in a fashion that is both safe to the community and constitutional.
In short, the federal government steps into a local police agency and tells them how to operate. The overseer must report what the department is doing, and the assigned judge determines whether or not the organization is following the federal government’s rules on policing.
Politics in Policing
Stop and frisk, also referred to as a Terry Frisk, is a law enforcement tactic in which an officer stops an individual and pats them down for weapons without need for a warrant or probable cause. It’s like the pedestrian version of a DUI checkpoint.
The Supreme Court upheld that law enforcement officers can make contact with an individual at any time, but to take the encounter further than consensual contact, the officer must have an articulable reasonable suspicion at a minimum to pat down an individual for weapons. In other words, the police cannot just stop someone because they feel like it and pat them down for weapons.
In 2015, the City of Chicago prohibited the police from stop and frisk in a politically motivated decision by progressive Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. The following year was deadly in the Windy City. According to Chicago Police, there was a 58% increase in murders from 2015 to 2016 and 762 people were killed by gunfire. The number of shooting victims rose from 3,550 to 4,331 as well, an increase of 47%.
The Federal Government has a habit of messing up everything it touches. There is no guarantee that a consent decree will enhance the quality of life in the city. An independent monitor does not know the city like the officers and CPD administration do and could make poor decisions with adverse effects.
LEO Task forces with state or federal attorneys coupled with the “broken windows” method is an effective way to reduce crime. The broken windows theory states that when the police address low-level offenses in communities, fewer more serious crimes tend to occur in the neighborhood. It allows citizens to feel free to call law enforcement rather than withdrawing and allowing criminal activity to go unreported, and eventually spiraling out of control. Local law enforcement officials can operate with the assistance of federal resources and be effective.
Sessions does not believe a consent decree is the best option for the City of Chicago, its residents, or the police department. As of April 2017, there are fourteen police departments under federal monitoring. While some report improvement, there are others that do not. A federally mandated policy change does not mean genuine improvement.