Federal Intervention in Local Policing: Pittsburgh’s Experience with a Consent Decree

October 11th, 2005

When something goes seriously wrong in one of the nation’s nearly 18,000 local police agencies, usually it is local officials who are responsible for fixing the problem. But when the local political process cannot resolve problems of police misconduct, the federal courts and the U. S. Department of Justice have a variety of powers that allow them to intervene. Congress expanded those powers in 1994, giving the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department the authority to file civil law suits against states and municipalities in the face of a “pattern or practice” of illegal or unconstitutional police actions.


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