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rampart scandal
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Federal Oversight of the L.A.P.D.: The Consent Decree

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.

Read the consent decree.

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