Resource: Implementing §14141 “Pattern or Practice” Reform: Evidence from Four Police Departments

By: Joshua M. Chanin

October 1, 2009


This paper takes as its subject a relatively new, but promising initiative to control police behavior through department-wide reform: a provision in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which that grants to the Department of Justice (DOJ) jurisdiction to sue local police departments found in systematic violation of constitutional or statutory law. This provision – §14141 – has been instrumental in identifying illegal behavior in many of the country’s most prominent police departments, and has generated settlement agreements that articulate deep reforms to the offending police department’s organizational model and accountability systems.

More specifically, I examine the implementation of settlement agreements between the DOJ and police departments in four jurisdictions – Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., and Prince George’s County, Maryland. Two key questions motivate this research: (1) How do §14141 reform efforts fit into the broader historical drive to regulate administrative discretion broadly, and police behavior in particular? and (2) Is existing theory able to explain the implementation of these reform efforts, or does the unique nature of §14141 reform implicate a new set of influences?,%20Joshua%20M.%20Implementing%20Section%2014141%20Pattern%20or%20Practice%20Reform%20-%20Evidence%20from%20Four%20Police%20Departments.pdf