As consensus decrees seek to correct systemic problems, they often take a nut-soup approach, from rewriting policies on when officers can use force to revamping everything from internal affairs investigations to cadet training. But what some consider necessary, others say is overwhelming.
« It’s kind of like the old saying, when everything is a priority, nothing is a priority, » said Jason Johnson, who was a deputy police chief in Baltimore who oversaw enforcement of the city’s consent decree. In a recent column, he warned Louisville to do it bargain carefully. « When you lay out this huge consent decree, honestly, it’s like the department just stepped into a concrete bucket. »
Mr. Johnson, who describes himself as a « constructive opponent » of the decrees, said the layers of approval they need have made it difficult for Baltimore to implement the changes quickly. And, he said, the Justice Department wanted rules for officers that went beyond what was required by the Constitution, regardless of whether they hindered the ability to stop crime. “I can tell you from being at the table, there was no interest in having conversations about what the impact of some of these policies might be,” he said.
Departments also have to bear the cost of new technology, better equipment and better training, as well as the cost of a monitor to check compliance. Even so, believers point out that consent decrees can be much cheaper than unconstitutional policing. Minneapolis has paid more than $70 million in police misconduct settlements over the past five years, including $27 million to Mr. Floyd’s family.
“What we’re talking about is broad institutional reform,” said David Douglass, deputy monitor of New Orleans consent enforcement and founder of a nonprofit group called Effective Law Enforcement for All, which helps communities develop voluntary reforms. “So, yeah, it’s expensive, but I think I’d say, ‘So what?’ measured in relation to the harm and the resulting benefit ».