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Biden’s DOJ Targets Police Misconduct

by Dale Chappell

In April, the Department of Justice announced it was investigating several police departments for civil rights violations, showing signs that the DOJ under President Biden is revving up its efforts to crack down on police misconduct. It’s a stark contrast to the single civil rights investigation launched by the Trump Administration’s DOJ led by former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Trump and Sessions had insisted that police misconduct was limited to only a few bad apples and that civil rights investigations unnecessarily burdened local police departments. If a department was found to have violated someone’s civil rights, the federal government could obtain a “consent decree” from a federal court that would force the department to comply with conditions to correct the violation. But complying with consent decrees is expensive. For example, a consent decree placed on the Oakland, California, police department has cost the city about $28 million over the last 18 years it has been in effect.

Sessions’ cure for this was to severely limit when the DOJ could seek a consent decree from a court. He said these lawsuits “undermine” respect for police officers and shed a bad light on the department as a whole. Looking back to the DOJ under the Obama Administration, there were at least 25 investigations of civil rights violations investigations by police departments. Compare that to the single investigation that was done by the DOJ under Trump and Biden’s DOJ’s announcement in April seems like things could be turning around.

The targeted cities in the announcement were those that were in the news much of 2020 and 2021, including Minneapolis with the death of George Floyd, and Louisville, Kentucky, with the death of Breonna Taylor. 



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