1997 April 16

Consent Degree to End “Pattern or Practice” of Abuse by Pittsburgh Police


The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department and the City of Pittsburgh entered into a Consent Decree on this day that required sweeping reforms of the Pittsburgh Police Bureau, specifically an end to abusive practices by police officers. The Consent Decree was the first brought by the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division under Section 14141 of the 1994 Violent Crime Control Act, which was passed on September 13, 1994. The law empowered the Justice Department to bring suit against police departments when there was a “pattern or practice” of violations of the rights of people. The specific reforms ordered in the Pittsburgh Consent Decree — and virtually all subsequent decrees — included state-of-the-art use of police force policy, an Early Intervention System, and a more open and accessible citizen complaint procedure.

By 2014, the Justice Department had reached consent decrees or memoranda of agreements with about 20 police departments, including Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Washington, D.C., Seattle, New Orleans, and others.

Learn more at the DOJ Special Litigation Section web site: http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/

Read: Samuel Walker and Carol Archbold, The New World of Police Accountability, 2nd ed. (2014)

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