Detroit • The U.S. Justice Department and the city of Detroit have asked a judge to scale back federal monitoring of the city’s police department, which started more than a decade ago after complaints over the use of force and treatment of crime suspects.
Federal authorities sued the city in 2003 and the city signed consent decrees that year. According to the request that was made Friday, significant progress has been made since that time.
“Today, DPD’s practices are consistent with constitutional policing standards,” Melvin Butch Hollowell, Detroit’s corporation counsel, said in a statement.
Watchdog group The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality questions that assertion, and plans a court challenge.
The dismissal of the federal monitor also would mean the bankrupt city wouldn’t need to pay a federal monitor more than $87,000 a month, a fee covered by taxpayers, Hollowell said.
The request asks U.S. District Court to terminate a consent judgment requiring oversight on Aug. 18 and dismiss a federal monitor. The Justice Department and Detroit want an 18-month transition agreement to replace current monitoring.
If it goes forward, the transition agreement would require the Justice Department to review and evaluate police department internal audits, conduct visits and provide “comments and technical assistance where needed” to ensure improvements. The agreement also would help the department focus on “sustaining effective and constitutional police practices” instead of meeting federal requirements, the motion says.
“Serious uses of force have drastically declined and the DPD has completely ended the practice of arresting and detaining witnesses,” the motion said. It also notes the department had 17 fatal shootings in the past five years; there were 47 in the five years before the Justice Department investigation.
But Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality spokesman Ron Scott told the Detroit Free Press he doesn’t believe that the culture of the department has changed.
“I think it’s a ... lie that use of force has gone down,” Scott said. “It has not.”