The DOJ under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and now William Barr, has dramatically limited pattern-or-practice investigations into local law enforcement agencies, and has implemented a policy that constrains the use of consent decrees. These are some of the primary ways the federal government can hold police departments accountable for civil rights violations, and the DOJ has not been transparent about which consent decrees or investigations have been paused or withdrawn. Specifically, when questioned by Senator Kamala Harris on whether he’d provide a list of the consent decrees that had been withdrawn since Attorney General Sessions announced his policy limiting consent decrees, Barr publicly committed to doing so. However, no such reports have been published thus far.
CREW has requested all DOJ documents since the announcement in 2017 that detail the current status of ongoing pattern-or-practice investigations, changes to investigations, and communications on Barr’s promise to Harris to provide a list of all withdrawn decrees.
At a time when the challenges of systemic police misconduct and efforts to reform unconstitutional policing are at the center of the national debate in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the requested records will contribute to greater public understanding of how Trump and Barr have backtracked on efforts to enforce police reforms established by earlier administrations. Barr interfering in these investigations is part of a pattern of the Trump administration politicizing DOJ operations. The public deserves transparency on the ways the Trump administration seeks to yet again limit accountability for misconduct.