After a series of lengthy negotiations, the City of Los Angeles and the U.S.
Department of Justice agreed to enter into a consent decree on November 3,
2000, which allows for federal oversight of the L.A.P.D. reform process for a
period of five years. In exchange, the Justice Department, which had been
investigating the L.A.P.D. since 1996 for excessive force violations, agreed
not to pursue a threatened lawsuit against the city.
In a May 8, 2000 letter to James
Hahn, the City Attorney for the City of Los Angeles, Bill Lann Lee, the Acting
Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division accused the L.A.P.D. of
"engaging in a pattern or practice of excessive force, false arrests, and
unreasonable searches and seizures in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth
Amendments to the Constitution."
The letter noted "serious deficiencies" in the training, supervision,
investigations, and discipline of officers, and said the L.A.P.D. failed "to
identify and respond to patterns of at-risk officer behavior." Finally, the
Justice Department alleged that the civilian Police Commission and Inspector
General did not "have the resources needed to conduct meaningful oversight of
the L.A.P.D. in a consistent, ongoing manner."
The consent decree calls for an independent monitor -- which according to the
agreement should have been selected no later than March 1, 2001 -- to oversee
the implementation of the specific reforms listed in the consent decree under
the guidance of a federal judge. U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feess Jr., who
is also supervising all Ramparts-related civil lawsuits, was randomly assigned
to preside over the consent decree. The agreement also strengthens the roles
of the Police Commission and Inspector General in reviewing and evaluating
L.A.P.D. audits and investigations.
Under the agreement, the L.A.P.D. is required to develop a computerized
database which would contain information on police officers including: all
uses of lethal and non-lethal force; all officer-involved shooting incidents
and firearms discharges; all incidents in which a complaint has been filed
against the officer; and all arrest reports and citations made by the officers,
including motor vehicle and pedestrian stops. In addition, the database would
contain information about those persons detailed by the officer -- including
demographic information such as race, ethnicity, gender, and age. The consent
decree requires that supervisors must review all information in the database
about officers under their command on a regular basis, in order to assess
whether any officer or group of officers is engaging in at-risk behavior.
Using information from this database, the L.A.P.D. must perform regular audits
to be reported quarterly to the Police Commission and Inspector General. The
audits must include random samples of: warrant applications; arrest, booking,
and charging reports; use-of-force reports; motor vehicle and pedestrian stops;
use-of-force investigations; and complaint investigations. Audits of L.A.P.D.
reports must entail:
at a minimum, a review for completeness of the information contained and an
authenticity review to include an examination for 'canned' language,
inconsistent information, lack of articulation of the legal basis for the
applicable action or other indicia that the information in the document is not
authentic or correct.
The consent decree also establishes procedural reforms of annual personnel
performance evaluations, use of force investigations, search and arrest
procedures, use of confidential informants and investigations of civilian
complaints. It enacts new protocol for those officers assigned to anti-gang
units, including limited tours of duty. To enhance community outreach efforts,
the consent decree calls for annual public meetings between the L.A.P.D. and
citizens in each of the city's 18 geographic areas.
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