When it comes to federal civil rights enforcement, the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division has the power to institute far-reaching investigations into local police departments to determine whether they are operating with a “pattern or practice” of depriving citizens of their constitutional rights by engaging in unconstitutional acts like excessive force and racial profiling. The law was passed after the 1993 beating of Rodney King.
When the DOJ finds a pattern or practice of widespread constitutional violations and systemic injustice, the DOJ can compel the offending departments to make needed police reforms through "consent decrees" subject to federal court oversight.
The DOJ has so far opened over 20 investigations into police agencies around the country. In California, the DOJ opened such investigations against both the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department-Antelope Valley and the Los Angeles Police Department.
The consent decree with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department-Antelope Valley was entered into to deal with an identified pattern or practice of harassment and profiling of people of color in the Antelope Valley. The consent decree with the Los Angeles Police Department, which has now been concluded, was entered into to deal with an identified pattern or practice of excessive force and unlawful stops, searches and arrests linked to inadequate training, supervision, and accountability systems.
There is also an ongoing DOJ investigation involving the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
Please visit the DOJ's Civil Rights Division's Interactive Guide to Police Reforms for more information about consent decrees targeting police agencies in Los Angeles and throughout the country.
For more information about systemic injustice and police brutality, please visit our page on Systemic Injustice.
To read blogs about the many ways in which systemic injustice manifests itself in the realm of policing and criminal justice, please see our systemic injustice blog topics.