LAPD Consent Decree Overview
Civil Rights Consent Decree
Following the discovery and disclosure of the Rampart Area Corruption Incident by the Los Angeles Police Department, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) notified the City of Los Angeles that it intended to file a civil suit alleging that the Department was engaging in a pattern or practice of excessive force, false arrests and unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Director of the Office of Constitutional Policing and Policy is Arif Alikhan.
Whenever the DOJ has reasonable cause to believe such violations have occurred, they may obtain a court order to eliminate the pattern or practice. On that basis, the DOJ has entered into consent decrees with other law enforcement agencies throughout the United States including the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Police Department; Steubenville, Ohio Police Department; and the New Jersey State Police.
A consent decree is an agreement between involved parties submitted in writing to a court. Once approved by the judge, it becomes legally binding.
In making these allegations, the DOJ recognized that the overwhelming majority of Los Angeles police officers perform their difficult jobs in a lawful manner. The City denied the allegations in the DOJ complaint and entered into negotiations with DOJ. However, to avoid potentially divisive and costly litigation and to promote the best available practices and procedures for the Department, the City entered into the Civil Rights Consent Decree.
The Consent Decree will last a minimum of five years during which the Department must demonstrate substantial compliance with the Decree’s provisions.
The Consent Decree is intended to promote police integrity within the Department and prevent conduct that deprives individuals of their rights, privileges, or immunities protected by the Constitution of the United States. The Consent Decree places emphasis on the following nine major areas:
- Management and supervisory measures to promote Civil Rights Integrity;
- Critical incident procedures, documentation, investigation and review;
- Management of Gang Units;
- Management of Confidential Informants;
- Program development for response to persons with mental illness;
- Integrity Audits;
- Operations of the Police Commission and Inspector General; and,
- Community outreach and public information.
On November 2, 2000, the City Council and the Mayor approved the Consent Decree negotiated between the City and the DOJ. However, the Consent Decree was not immediately entered (i.e. approved and signed) by Federal District Court Judge Gary A Feess. Nonetheless, the Department formed the Consent Decree Task Force (CDTF) within Administrative Group to plan for, coordinate, track, monitor and report on the Department’s compliance with the Decree’s provisions.
The Court formally entered the Consent Decree into law on June 15, 2001. In the upcoming month, Department employees can expect to receive Consent Decree-related orders, notices, and training, articulating new operational policies and procedures.
Wilshire and Hollywood Area patrol officers recently began a pilot program to evaluate the use of hand-held computers for motor vehicle and pedestrian stops. Data collection is scheduled to begin Department-wide by November 1, 2001.
The men and women of the Los Angeles Police Department are deeply committed to serving all the people and all the various communities of the City.
Compliance with the Consent Decree is the baseline for, and not the ultimate standard, by which the Department’s commitment to excellence will ultimately be measured.
The communities of Los Angeles expect and deserve the finest service possible from their police officers. To that end, the Department shall consider the Consent Decree as only a part of a more comprehensive effort to provide the highest level of protection and service.
Policing Los Angeles Under a Consent Decree
The Dynamics of Change at the LAPD
Christopher Stone, Todd Foglesong, Christine M. Cole | May 18, 2009
The Los Angeles Police Department is completing one of the most ambitious experiments in police reform ever attempted in an American city. After a decade of policing crises that began with the beating of Rodney King in 1991 and culminated in the Rampart police corruption scandal in 1999, the U.S. Department of Justice announced in May 2000 that it had accumulated enough evidence to sue the City of Los Angeles over a pattern-and-practice of police misconduct. Later that year, the city government entered a “consent decree” promising to adopt scores of reform measures under the supervision of the Federal Court.
- UPDATE:On Friday, July 17, 2009, U.S. District Court Judge Gary A. Feess terminated the consent decree. The Los Angeles Police Commission has assumed responsibility from the federal monitor and will oversee the LAPD as it continues to implement the reforms of the past decade.
The experiment in police reform in Los Angeles has two components: the consent decree produced by the Justice Department’s intervention, and the leadership of Chief William Bratton, who since 2002 has focused the Department’s attention simultaneously on reducing crime, improving morale, and complying fully with the consent decree. What has the experience in Los Angeles revealed about policing under a consent decree? Has the consent decree achieved its purpose? How is the Los Angeles Police Department controlling its use of force; what is the state of police-community relations; how rigorous is the governance and oversight of the LAPD; and how is the culture of the Department changing? Most important, as the LAPD has incorporated the policies and practices specified in the consent decree into its own operations and management, has the Department won the public’s trust and confidence while reducing crime and bringing offenders to justice?
To answer those questions, the Program in Criminal Justice Policy and Management at the Harvard Kennedy School examined the LAPD using multiple research methods. We undertook hundreds of hours of participant observation from patrol to the command staff; we analyzed administrative data on crime, arrests, stops, civilian complaints, police personnel, and the use of force. We compiled surveys conducted over the last decade of police officers and residents of Los Angeles, and then conducted three surveys of our own, one of residents, another of LAPD officers, and a third of detainees recently arrested by the LAPD. Finally, we conducted a series of formal focus groups and structured interviews with police officers, public officials, and residents of Los Angeles.
While some questions remain unanswered, this ranks among the most comprehensive assessments ever conducted of a police department outside of a time of crisis. We found the LAPD much changed from eight years ago, and even more so in the last four or five years.
Time to End the Consent Decree (2010)
* This article also appeared in the February issue of the Thin Blue Line
The LAPD has been under the federal Consent Decree for six years now, and has performed remarkably. We are in substantial compliance with almost all of the requirements. However, the Department still has many officers who are consumed with the minutiae of auditing and auditing and auditing. Meanwhile, the chosen federal monitor, Kroll Inc., continues to enrich itself with millions of taxpayer dollars by nitpicking items that have zero to do with public safety or police integrity.
The time has come for the City to stand up and say the LAPD is done with the Consent Decree. In these tough budgetary times, the City cannot afford to waste taxpayer dollars for incessant, meaningless auditing that does nothing to enhance public safety or “reform” the LAPD.
Lifting the Consent Decree will allow the LAPD to use funds for public safety the way they are intended— namely, putting cops on the street. It will improve public safety by freeing up large numbers of officers to do what they were hired to do: concentrate on crime prevention and make our neighborhoods safe — not worry about the right boxes being checked on forms.
Our accomplishments of the last six years, combined with the ongoing threat of terrorism and the other issues facing the City of Los Angeles, make a compelling case for the Department of Justice to agree with lifting the Decree. The 95% compliance standard set by the Decree was, on its face, an unrealistic goal for a large organization, but we have met that mark for almost every single requirement.
Unbelievably, both Kroll and the federal judge have rejected the LAPPL, City and Department of Justice’s compromise on financial disclosure. In March 2006, following culmination of collective bargaining between the League and the City, a binding agreement was reached. The agreement terms were consistent with applicable California laws and acceptable to the Department of Justice, and achieved the underlying objective of the federal Consent Decree on the issue of financial disclosure. The agreement included the following components of a comprehensive financial disclosure policy:
- Regular and periodic anti-corruption sting operations on gang and narcotics officers;
- Existing polygraph examination expanded for selection of officers to include questions related to financial issues;
- Enhanced supervision and training; periodic review of TEAMS records for selection and advancements within the concerned units.
Throughout the five-year interactive process in this matter, the League has demonstrated a genuine and sincere effort to exchange information and proposals to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
The rejection of our compromise efforts highlights both the moral bankruptcy of Kroll and the fanatical commitment to form over substance by an unelected federal judge. Common sense says that a corrupt officer would not put ill-gotten funds in an account where they would be scrutinized, especially if the account were to be regularly monitored. Historically it has been proven in incidents of police corruption that funds are spent, not deposited in plain view. Thus, the blind insistence to an unprecedented financial disclosure requirement is rooted not in common sense, or the desire to actually accomplish something, but a continuation of the tyrannical determination by Kroll and the judge to show that they will be running the LAPD — and for Kroll, the added incentive of continuous financial reward.
The LAPD already has a surveillance unit that has the capability to sting officers. There are a myriad of tested and effective ways to ferret out any corruption by officers, from rotation in units to strong field supervision. This McCarthyite insistence on financial disclosure accomplishes nothing, and ignores ways to realistically attack suspected corruption.
Who Is the LAPD Monitor?
On June 15, 2001, the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD entered into a Consent Decree with the Department of Justice. Kroll was hired to act as the independent monitor to ensure that Consent Decree reforms are implemented in an effective and timely manner. It is strange that Kroll was tasked with monitoring a police agency, as Kroll has a rather interesting and undistinguished past history.
Kroll began in 1972 as a detective agency. In the 1980s it became known as “Wall Street’s private eye.” One of its clients was Drexel Burnham Lambert, the widely discredited junk bond/takeover firm run by soon-to-be-convicted felon Mike Milken. In 1988, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Drexel, Milken and others of insider trading, fraud and stock manipulation among other offenses. Drexel pleaded guilty to six felonies and paid $650 million in fines. In 1990, Drexel filed for bankruptcy and Milken was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
According to Connie Bruck, author of The Predators’ Ball, Kroll was first hired to do background checks on Drexel clients. James B. Stewart, author of Den of Thieves, wrote that Drexel hired Kroll to dig up dirt on Ivan Boesky, a Milken collaborator who also went to federal prison. While the government was investigating Drexel, big-time entrepreneurs with gambling industry and organized crime backgrounds took out full-page ads lauding the firm.
After Drexel’s demise, the firm, then called Kroll Associates, ran into financial troubles. It was bailed out by insurance giant American International Group (AIG). A Kroll spokesperson acknowledged in 1993 that AIG had a minority position in Kroll and remains a client today.
Jules Kroll, the company founder, stayed close to Frederick Joseph, former head of Drexel. Joseph, now with another firm, assisted Kroll Inc. in its 2003 buyout of Zolfo Cooper, as well as the deal in which insurance broker Marsh & McLennan purchased Kroll for $1.9 billion.
Corruption charges soon swirled around both AIG and Kroll’s parent company, Marsh & McLennan (Marsh Mac), as they were being investigated by New York’s then-Attorney General (now Governor), Eliot Spitzer. In October 2004, Spitzer accused Marsh Mac of fraudulent self-dealing and bid-rigging. In early 2005, Marsh Mac settled the charges with a payment of $850 million, but the investigation is ongoing.
After Marsh Mac bought Kroll, it ousted its chief executive and put Kroll executive Michael Cherkasky [Editor’s note: In late December, Marsh Mac announced that Cherkasky would be resigning as CEO, as soon as a replacement is found.] in the top position. Cherkasky, formerly Spitzer’s boss in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, is his tennis pal and has contributed to his campaigns. This strange turn of events raised eyebrows. Forbes magazine asked the question, “Did Marsh Mac buy Kroll thinking it was an insurance policy against an impending crackdown by New York Attorney General Spitzer?”
A Google search revealed that Kroll charged the City of San Diego $20.3 million for an investigation that accomplished nothing — an investigation that was initially bid at $800,000! I urge you to look at what San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre said about Kroll. It is clear that Kroll has found a new source of revenue — municipal governments — from which it collects a steady stream of fees for little substance. So who really needs financial disclosure? To read more about Kroll in San Diego, go to the SanDiego Times website and download the pdf.
Federal judge lifts LAPD consent decree
The order ends oversight imposed in 2001, mostly over the Rampart scandal, which involved abuse of suspects, evidence tampering and perjury.
The federal judge who oversaw a dramatic, forced transformation of the Los Angeles Police Department has freed the department from the final vestiges of federal oversight.
In a brief, three-line order Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Gary Feess formally lifted the binding agreement the U.S. Department of Justice imposed on the LAPD in 2001, which spelled out dozens of major reforms the police agency had to implement and frequent audits it was required to undergo by a monitor who reported to Feess.
The dismissal of the so-called consent decree, which arose largely out of the Rampart corruption scandal and addressed basic problems of accountability that stretched back decades, delivered a largely symbolic, but nonetheless important milestone for the LAPD as it continues to disassociate itself from a past marked by abuses and turmoil. Following revelations in 1999 that officers assigned to the LAPD’s Rampart Division were implicated in serious misconduct, including physical abuse of suspects, evidence tampering and perjury, public trust in the police plummeted and federal officials responded to calls from a growing chorus of critics for intervention.
Though many in the department bitterly disliked the idea of federal oversight, Department of Justice officials threatened to sue the city for complete control of the LAPD if department and city officials resisted the idea of the consent decree.
“In these last 12 years the Los Angeles Police Department did not just comply with the consent decree, they took it to heart. They used it as a guide to change their culture,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a late afternoon news conference with Police Chief Charlie Beck and members of the Police Commission, the civilian board that oversees the department. “The entire department, from the officers on the beat in the neighborhoods to the top brass downtown, have made these reforms their reforms.”
Although his predecessor, Bernard Parks, was lukewarm on it, former Chief William J. Bratton, who ran the department from late 2002 to 2009, embraced the consent decree. An outsider hired on his reputation for overhauling large, troubled police departments, Bratton used the decree as a ready-made blueprint for remaking the LAPD. Under the terms of the decree, the LAPD was required to revamp its tools for tracking officer misconduct, investigations into cases involving force by officers, training, an independent watchdog office and more.
In 2006, however, as the decree was set to expire, Feess angrily rebuked the department for what he found to be its slow pace of reform and extended the decree for five years.
As the years wore on, Bratton and other senior LAPD officials grew increasingly impatient with the judge’s refusal to loosen his grip on the department and called openly to be let out from under the consent decree. The department, they argued, had implemented the vast majority of the reforms called for in the decree, proved its ability to operate responsibly and needed the freedom to run on its own. Bratton pointed out frequently that about two-thirds of the department’s roughly 10,000 officers had joined the force while it was under the decree — a sign, he said, that the department had, in fact, broken with its unsavory past.
On the eve of Bratton’s departure, Feess relented and approved a transitional plan that called on the Los Angeles Police Commission, which oversees the LAPD, to assume responsibility for keeping tabs on the department’s efforts to fully implement the few issues that had not yet been completely addressed. If Department of Justice lawyers were unsatisfied with the commission’s oversight, the agreement allowed them to object and bring the department back before Feess.
With Wednesday’s order, Feess severed that remaining authority, leaving the LAPD fully as its own master for the first time in 12 years. With the transition agreement completed, Feess had been waiting for Department of Justice officials to file necessary paperwork before taking his final step, police officials said.
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU of Southern California, praised Bratton, Beck and Villaraigosa for their “stewardship” in seeing the consent decree through. The reform package, he said in a statement, has “accomplished its purpose by and large. This is no longer your father’s Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD has made serious culture changes.”
Villagra, however, cautioned that the department must guard against backsliding into its old ways and had more work to do on “persistent racial disparities in policing” and officers’ treatment of homeless people.
Andrea Ordin, the president of Police Commission, echoed Villagra, saying at the news conference that “there’s lots more to do, we know that. But it should be done by the department.”
Beck credited the department’s officers for adopting the changes imposed on them from the outside. He reserved special praise for an advisor, Gerald Chaleff, who worked closely with him and Bratton on putting the decree in place. “Without him, this new day would never have dawned,” Beck said of Chaleff.
“The consent decree has made this a department that I am proud to hand over to my children,” said Beck, who has a daughter and son on the force. “It has been the catalyst for incredible change in my Police Department. We’ve become accountable, we’ve become transparent and we’ve become more effective than we’ve ever been.”