The federal government has largely shifted away from efforts to reform police abuse and misconduct. That’s not going to change if William Barr is confirmed. But state AGs in CA and IL, among other states, are carrying on with their own efforts to reform police departments.
The CA DOJ announced the release of a report on use of force in the Sacramento Police Department. Find the report here. The Sacramento Police Department invited the CA DOJ’s involvement after public outcry over the police shooting of an unarmed black man named Stephon Clark last March. The CA DOJ’s report is not binding on the Police Department.
A federal judge in Chicago just approved a consent decree mandating reforms for the Chicago Police Department. Find the decree here. The consent decree follows from the IL AG’s lawsuit against the City of Chicago. Read more about the lawsuit here, which itself followed after former US AG Jeff Sessions abandoned efforts at reform in the city.
The initiatives in CA and IL show two different models for police reform. One involves a voluntary relationship with the AG offering advice and assistance, like the federal government used to offer through its Collaborative Reform Initiative. The other involves the AG obtaining a court order and judicial oversight, which the federal DOJ used to do following its pattern-or-practice investigations.
Most state AGs, however, do not have explicit statutory authority to obtain consent decrees to curb police misconduct. There have been calls (here, here and here) for the expansion of AG authority in this area. We think state legislatures will be seeing proposals soon, if they haven’t already.