Resource: Early Stages of Pattern or Practice Police Misconduct Reform: An Examination of the Department of Justice's Investigation and Negotiation Processes

By: Joshua Chanin

May 23, 2017

Police Quarterly

This essay focuses on two significant blind spots in knowledge of the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pattern or practice police misconduct initiative: (a) DOJ investigation of alleged systemic police misconduct and (b) the negotiation that defines the terms of the settlement agreements between the DOJ and jurisdictions found to have engaged in a pattern or practice of unlawful activity. This article will discuss each stage in some detail, beginning with a description of the relevant federal and state or local stakeholders involved and the key decisions they face throughout the investigation and negotiation processes. The article goes on to address several points of criticism, including the ambiguous legal and evidentiary standards underlying the DOJ’s investigation process and the insularity and opaqueness that characterize settlement negotiation, while considering how each affects the process of implementation and the sustainability of the organizational change at issue and the broad goals of the initiative.