Consent decree: "It's a heavy hammer, but you need it in the toolbox."
Stan Stojkovic, professor of criminal justice and dean of UW-Milwaukee's Helen Bader School of Social Welfare, says U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ proposed review of consent decrees is “a troubling signal.”
In calling for the review, Sessions said, “It is not the responsibility of the federal government to manage non-federal enforcement agencies."
Stojkovic disagrees: "It is the federal government’s responsibility to enforce the United States Constitution, and that’s why these cases come up," he said.
Consent decrees are court-enforced settlements between the Department of Justice and cities that are intended to eliminate the use of excessive force and racial profiling in policing. They have also been used to address issues in correctional facilities.
Stojkovic says a consent decree is a drastic measure, one that the Department of Justice has employed reluctantly.
Nevertheless, it can become necessary.
“Sometimes you need it,” Stojkovic says, “because things have escalated to the point where a police department is not being managed properly.
“History has shown there are departments that don’t comply.”
“If the chief law enforcement officer of the country says we don’t believe many of these cases aren’t worthy of scrutiny, that’s a troubling signal,” Stojkovic says.
Stojkovic notes that the threat of a consent decree is often enough to bring errant police departments into line.
“If you’re taken over by the Department of Justice, they’re going to be hanging around for 10 years,” he says. “You want to avoid that at all costs.”
About Stan Stokovic
Stan Stojkovic is an expert in criminal justice administration, prisoner reintegration and theories of justice. He has written extensively on corrections and works locally, nationally and internationally with law enforcement and corrections entities.
Dr. Stojkovic’s expertise helps students and the public understand complex and relevant criminal justice issues. He is frequently interviewed by the media about current criminal justice topics.
Other professional work includes:
- Consultant/evaluator/expert witness, evaluating correctional-based programs for public and private agencies
- Standards trainer, The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, California, 2008-present
- Co-coordinator, Leadership Institute, California Department of Corrections and California State University, 1994-2004