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US government strengthens oversight of police reform observers

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WASHINGTON, Sept. 13 (Reuters) – The US Department of Justice, investigating police practices in three major cities, will step up oversight of federal controllers who oversee the implementation of police reforms mandated in the executive orders of civil consent, Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Monday. .

The department’s civil rights division is conducting wide-ranging investigations into possible police abuse in Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix. If investigations show that these police services have engaged in patterns or practices of discrimination or excessive use of force, the ministry may seek to use a civil consent decree to implement the reforms.

In a speech at an event hosted by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Garland said that while agreements with police services have improved policing practices, it is “no secret” that surveillance has. also leads to frustrations.

“While consent decrees and controls are important tools for increasing transparency and accountability, the department can and should do more to improve their efficiency and effectiveness,” Garland said in his prepared remarks.

Supervisors are typically hired to oversee consent decrees after negotiations between the parties and approval by a federal court. They are supposed to serve as neutral arbiters of compliance with the terms of the consent decree.

The new rules will impose annual budget caps on monitors to prevent them from increasing taxpayer costs for their services, and monitors will need to take additional training, the department said. The rules also subject monitors to term limits and require them to undergo a performance review after several years to ensure they are effective.

After five years, cities and other local jurisdictions under a consent decree will be allowed to apply to the court to request termination of surveillance by demonstrating compliance with the terms of the settlement.

In addition, the rules prohibit monitors from “doubling down” by being part of more than one watch team at a time.

The steps, outlined in a note from Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta, were developed after the ministry held about 50 sessions with police departments, mayors and others.

Many officials told the ministry that while they felt consent decrees were helpful in improving policing practices, they were concerned about the sometimes high costs of surveillance fees and the lack of surveillance to ensure they are held accountable.

President Joe Biden has pledged to fight what he called systemic racism in the United States.

On April 21, the Department of Justice opened an investigation into Minneapolis policing practices following a jury verdict that a white policeman murdered a black man named George Floyd in an incident in 2020 that resulted in sparked racial justice protests in many American cities.

The department launched its investigation five days later into the Louisville Police Department, whose officers last year shot dead a black woman named Breonna Taylor in a failed raid in another incident that sparked protests against police violence.

Last month, the department opened an investigation into whether Phoenix police illegally used lethal force, retaliated against peaceful protesters, and violated the rights of the homeless.

Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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2/ https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-government-strengthens-oversight-police-reform-monitors-2021-09-13/

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