The Justice Department today announced the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan’s termination of the consent judgment relating to the Detroit Police Department’s (DPD) use of force and arrest and witness detention practices. The Justice Department and the city of Detroit jointly sought the termination of the consent judgment and approval of a Transition Agreement maintaining federal oversight of the DPD for an additional 18 months. The transition agreement starts a new chapter of reform and accountability for the DPD as it works in collaboration with the Justice Department to better ensure constitutional policing, promote community confidence, and improve public safety in the city of Detroit. The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan have worked cooperatively throughout the duration of this matter.
The consent judgment was entered in 2003 and required comprehensive reforms of the DPD to remedy its patterns and practices of use of excessive force and unlawful detentions and arrests identified by the Justice Department following a two-and-a-half-year investigation. A second, concurrent consent judgment was also entered addressing unconstitutional conditions of confinement in the DPD’s holding cells. A court-appointed monitor was selected to evaluate the city’s compliance with both judgments.
Through substantial compliance with the consent judgment, the DPD has significantly reformed its use of force and witness detention practices. The DPD has effectively eliminated the unconstitutional practices that made the consent judgment necessary through comprehensive policy revision; enhanced training, supervision and investigative practices; and improved accountability systems, including the development of a comprehensive risk management system. The effects of these changes are evident in the reduction of the DPD’s officer-involved shootings and other uses of force, and the abolition of its past practice of detaining witnesses during investigations of serious crimes.
"Today's transition agreement with the Detroit Police Department is yet another example that law enforcement agencies can change to better serve their communities when they commit to meaningful reform," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "The Department of Justice has entered into agreements with police departments large and small across the country over the past five years and I applaud Detroit for setting an example by showing that these agreements can create the constitutional and community policing models that all communities deserve."
“The court’s order today to terminate the consent judgment and move to a transition agreement is an important step, but does not end the Department of Justice’s oversight of the Detroit Police Department,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade for the Eastern District of Michigan. “We are pleased that the Detroit Police Department has made fundamental changes in its practices and procedures, but we will continue to monitor for an additional 18 months to ensure that these changes are sustained and that the people of Detroit receive the constitutional policing that they deserve.”
Although the DPD is greatly improved, and the city had substantially complied with the requirements of the consent judgment, the Justice Department and the city acknowledged that additional work remains to be done to ensure that the consent judgment’s reforms are fully realized and maintained. The transition agreement approved today by the court provides an opportunity for the DPD to continue that work and demonstrate to the Justice Department and the people of Detroit that it can satisfy its mission of promoting public safety in a manner that is fair, just and constitutional.
The other concurrent consent judgment relating to the conditions of confinement in DPD holding cells was terminated earlier this year after the city, which had fully complied with that judgment’s terms, completed the transfer of custodial responsibility for all DPD detainees to the Michigan Department of Corrections.
Under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the Justice Department has the authority to file civil suits against law enforcement agencies that engage in a pattern of misconduct. The department also has the authority to file suit against law enforcement agencies that receive federal funds and engage in a pattern of discrimination. For more information on the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division or the Detroit consent judgments, visit www.justice.gov/crt
or call the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Rights hotline at (313) 226-9151. Community members may also email the Civil Rights Division at firstname.lastname@example.org