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NCJ Number: NCJ 209228     Find in a Library
Title: Can Federal Intervention Bring Lasting Improvement in Local Policing?: The Pittsburgh Consent Decree
Author(s): Robert C. Davis ; Nicole J. Henderson ; Christopher W. Ortiz
Corporate Author: Vera Institute of Justice
United States of America
Date Published: 06/2004
Page Count: 61
Sale Source: Vera Institute of Justice
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Document: PDF 
Type: Program/Project Evaluation
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This report examines the outcomes of the consent decree between the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and the Pittsburgh Police Bureau.
Abstract: In 1994, the United States Congress expanded the powers of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department by granting it the authority to file civil lawsuits against States and municipalities that display a “pattern or practice” of police misconduct. The department has filed six lawsuits, all of which have been settled out of court through consent decrees. These decrees specify the reforms the police agencies must implement; the first consent decree was negotiated in Pittsburgh, PA. Researchers at the Vera Institute of Justice questioned whether the use of this new Federal intervention power could make a sustainable difference in the operation of local law enforcement agencies. Researchers studied the Pittsburgh Police Bureau both before and after the consent decree was lifted in 2002. Research methods involved observations of police in field and management settings, interviews with key officials and community leaders, focus groups with police officers, surveys of citizens, and reviews of the Federal monitor’s reports and police data. Findings indicated two key factors were most responsible for the quick compliance with the terms of the decree: the leadership displayed by the police chief and guidance received from the Federal monitor. Several changes were made to the way the police agency operated, including the addition of new systems to track the use of force, traffic stops, and searches, as well as new procedures to increase officer accountability and new policies and trainings. Despite budget cutbacks, these new reforms remain in place and the surveys of community leaders and citizens indicate significant improvements in police services. Problems remain however, as front-line police officers complain about tighter management and citizens continue to voice concerns about police misconduct. The overall findings suggest that this type of Federal intervention can bring lasting improvements in police accountability. Figures, tables, footnotes, appendixes, references
Main Term(s): Police misconduct ; Pennsylvania
Index Term(s): Federal government ; Federal regulations
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