Police Consent Decrees and Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation

  1. Policing

Key Findings


  • There may be a reduction in the incidence of civil rights litigation after a law enforcement agency participates in the consent decree process with the DOJ.
  • The protective effects of the consent decree process may not last in the long-term.
  • There may be a benefit to law enforcement agencies if they participate in the DOJ’s police reform process.

Description


In the study, “Police Consent Decrees and Section 1983 Civil Rights Litigation,” John Worrall and his co-authors examined whether the number of civil rights filings against law enforcement agencies decreases in the wake of U.S. Department of Justice-initiated reform efforts. They found there may be a reduction in the incidence of civil rights litigation after a law enforcement agency participates in the consent decree process with the DOJ. However, the protective effects of the consent decree process may not last in the long-term. Using a sample of 23 agencies, the authors collected information on the incidence of Section 1983 litigation before and after DOJ involvement. While the results do not speak to other metrics of police misbehavior, the findings suggest there may be a benefit to law enforcement agencies if they participate in the DOJ’s police reform process. The study is the first to examine the incidence of civil rights litigation against law enforcement agencies before, during, and after initiating a consent decree with the DOJ.

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