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by Peter Moskos

March 31, 2016

Another Consent Decree

Here are the press conference justifications for a consent decree of Newark, NJ, police department:
1) reports don't give cause for stops. Unconstitutional stops. Illegal arrests

2) pattern of excessive force

3) need for more civilian oversight

4) need for better internal affairs

5) there will be a court-ordered monitor

6) will end after two successful years
I don't know enough about Newark to comment on the specifics. I'm against illegal policing and unconstitutional policing, just to be clear. But I'm still like to know the track records of consent decrees. Do they work? Do they improve policing? How do we know? What's the impact on crime?

Newark, NJ, saw 104 homicides in 2015. The 2009-2014 average was 95 homicides per year (UCR data).

Of the 585 murders reported to the UCR 2009-214, 87 percent of the victims are African American 12.6 percent are white (which, as one would expect, roughly reflects the racial breakdown of known offenders).

Newark has 280,000 people and is about half black, 26 percent white (12 percent non-hispanic white), 15 percent "other races." The city is also about one-third hispanic.

1 comment:

David Thacher said...

The Newark findings report (now nearly TWO years old; why did the consent decree take so long???) is pretty damning. For example they did not have a minor problem with "unconstitutional stops". 75% (!!!) of stops failed to articulate reasonable suspicion. By contrast in New York land of Floyd I believe the official estimate was 6%. (And who was the Newark Police Chief when the federal investigation began? Garry McCarthy.)

What is the track record of consent decrees? Some successes, some failures, like all efforts to solve the hardest problems. I worry a little about the framing. Some want to ask: "Do consent decrees work?" Consent decrees are not what the philosophers of science used to call a "natural kind". When you carve the universe at the joints you don't discover consent decrees as a basic element. There are good ones and bad ones, favorable contexts and unfavorable ones, etc. But the principle is sound. There are some very basic management 101 things that lots of America's most dysfunctional police departments are not doing. There are lots of police departments that still have not implemented a meaningful analogue to the controls on use of deadly the NYPD adopted over 40 years ago. Etc. I don't know why these agencies never got the memo, but if DOJ wants to send it to them today I'm in favor. And then let's hope that DOJ and the other oversight bodies do their jobs well.