The Justice Department will unveil new rules to regulate court-appointed monitors of police departments, Attorney General Merrick Garland recently announced to the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The watchdogs, who are appointed by a court to oversee reforms at police departments who have been sued by the federal government for misconduct, will now be slapped with regulations limiting their tenure and budget, and increasing their training requirements.
“It is also no secret that the monitorships associated with some of those settlements have led to frustrations and concerns within the law enforcement community,” Garland said in the online speech.
The ruling aims to establish guardrails on monitors after the DOJ heard 50 listening sessions on the issue, NBC News reported.
The new rules will limit the amount of money cities can spend on monitors, will require additional training for all monitors, and limit the tenure of an overseer to five years unless the court approves additional time.
Monitorships for police reform are established via “consent decrees” issued by the Justice Department after a federal investigation finds misconduct within a local police department.
The consent decree is then approved by a judge, and outlines the steps the department must take to implement reforms.
Monitorships have been the subject of criticism in the past.
According to The Washington Post, monitoring teams, which are usually composed of former police officials, lawyers, academics and police-reform consultants, typically cost local taxpayers between $1 million and $2 million per year.
Critics pointed out that monitors would be incentivized to extend their monitoring job for longer than is necessary to make the reforms in order to pocket more money. As a result, the DOJ formulated term limits as part of the new rules.
Garland said that “monitors must be incentivized to efficiently bring consent decrees to an end. Change takes time, but a consent decree cannot last forever.”
Another law is aimed at narrowing the scope of consent decrees so as to make them less burdensome to law enforcement agencies and give them some acknowledgement that progress has been made towards reform.
Law enforcement officials reacted positively to the changes.
James Pasco, executive director of the National Order of Police, said that while the reform itself is the goal, how that reform is implemented is also important. He believes the new rules will allow such reforms to be implemented fairly and effectively.
“Pattern or practice investigations are serious business, and if the Justice Department conducts such an investigation and finds areas that require remedy, then it’s critically important that the remedy is effectively administered,” he said. “Unfortunately, that hasn’t always been the case over the years, in every instance. These changes go a long way in improving the manner in which public safety is enhanced in cities large and small.”
Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, said his organization has lobbied for nearly two decades to get the DOJ to regulate monitors, and is now satisfied.
“This memo addresses many, if not all, of the major concerns we have had,” he said. “This will help restore credibility into this process.”