DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A judge has eased oversight of the Detroit Police Department after the government reported substantial compliance with a 2003 agreement to reduce excessive force and illegal arrests.
City attorney Melvin Hollowell says Detroit doesn’t have a perfect police department but it has one that follows the U.S. Constitution.
Federal Judge Avern Cohn agreed Monday to drop the use of a court-appointed monitor. For 18 months, the government still will keep an eye on Detroit police by reviewing internal audits, offering technical assistance and making on-site visits.
For 11 years, the department was watched by monitors while it changed policies and trained officers, especially in the use of proper force.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said that the department has fundamentally changes from the days when officers would routinely detain witnesses and use force with little regard.
“The judge has dismissed the consent decrees that have been in place for the last 11 years between the U.S. Department of Justice and the Detroit Police Department,” McQuade said. “When we began investigating, the Detroit Police Department didn’t even define what was force. Today, they have a use of force policy that is a model for policing.”
Earlier, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said that he was excited about the possibility of ending the court-ordered monitoring and felt that its removal would bring closure on that period in Detroit police history.
“[The policy] requires officers to first seek alternatives to force — to try to de-escalate the situation, to use verbal commands, to try to calm things down, to wait out a suspect, to call for reinforcements, to do everything in their power to avoid using force whenever possible,” McQuade said.
Before the 2003 agreement, the U.S. Justice Department said it found constitutional violations within the department. Between 1995 and 2000, police killed nearly 50 people, including six people who were unarmed and shot in the back. Nineteen people died while in custody.
The city has been 90 percent in compliance with the regulations set by the federal government including a substantial reduction in fatal shootings and a virtual elimination of illegally detained persons reports WWJ legal analyst Charlie Langton.
Ron Scott with the Coalition Against Police Brutality said that he objected to getting rid of the monitor: “We’ve had three (deaths) this year, that’s more than the last three or four years.”
The federal monitoring cost the city over a million dollars a year.
“So in effect, unless you have certainty of punishment, you will not change the culture,” Scott said. “You can have an individual officer who from time to time may be disciplined, but you will not change the culture.”
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