President Obama’s Justice Department has effectively taken control of police departments across the country by using a sneaky legal trick endorsed by the United Nations.
Incredibly, it has been completed through simple lawsuits.
Placing local enforcement under federal control is much easier than you might think. The Obama administration has done it 26 times using a legal mechanism known as a consent decree, The Washington Post and Lifezette.com reported.
Here is how the process works:
The Justice Department’s civil rights division files a federal lawsuit against a local government, alleging civil or constitutional rights violations. A federal law, the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (42 U.S.C. § 14141), gives the DOJ the power to do this, noted Robert Romano of Americans for Limited Government.
To settle the suit, the local government enters into a special court order, called a consent decree, which puts the DOJ in charge of major aspects of local law enforcement.
“The municipality then simply agrees to the judicial finding — without contest — and the result is a wide-reaching federal court order that imposes onerous regulations on local police,” Romano wrote at Lifezette of the practice. “This makes local police directly answerable to the Civil Rights Division at the DOJ.”
Independent monitors ensure that the decree is being followed. The decree gives the DOJ the power to tell the cop on the beat what to do. For example, it can write policies for departments and require the use of body cameras. The policies can cover everything from training to the use of force.
The investigations often begin after allegations of unlawful arrests, illegal searches and racial profiling, The Post reported.
“A good example is that we took on a bunch of cases where one of the critical elements was how police use force against persons who are in mental health crisis,” former DOJ attorney Jonathan Smith told The Washington Post.
The DOJ can bury local police departments with red tape by using consent decrees, Romano alleged. A March 30 decree between Newark, New Jersey, and the DOJ was 77 pages.
Consent decrees can increase costs to local taxpayers. An investigation by The Post and Frontline determined that DOJ-ordered reforms cost a total of $600 million. Most of that money came from local taxpayers.
Police departments in Los Angeles and Chicago — America’s second and third largest cities, respectively — are currently operating under consent decrees. Miami police are operating under a consent decree, too.
“Officer morale in some of the departments plummeted during the interventions, according to interviews,” The Post reported of the DOJ’s efforts. “Collectively, the departments have cycled through 52 police chiefs as the agencies tried to meet federal demands. Some departments have struggled to sustain reforms once oversight ended, and in some cities, police relations with residents remain strained.”
The reforms don’t always take care of the problems that the Department of Justice was trying to fix.
“The hard question — have you stopped doing the things that got you into court in the first place — is something that these consent decrees seem to have trouble answering,” Jeffrey Fagan, a professor of law at Columbia University who has studied reform agreements, told The Post.
Police departments may have to go along with consent decrees in order to get federal funding.
“These consent decrees are in essence regulations,” Romano wrote, noting that the decrees take place “without the niceties of administrative procedures requirements, public comments, or even any congressional oversight.”
A United Nations official has endorsed the Department of Justice policy of intervening in local police matters.
“The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has provided oversight and recommendations for improvement of police services in a number of cities with consent decrees,” Maina Kai, a representative of the UN Human Rights Council, said on July 27. “This is one of the most effective ways to reduce discrimination in law enforcement and it needs to be beefed up and increased to cover as many of the 18,000-plus local law enforcement jurisdictions.”
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