DOJ Planning New Rules For Federal Monitors

( On Monday, Attorney General Merrick Garland unveiled new rules governing the federal monitors responsible for overseeing local police reforms. These new rules include setting limits on the watchdog’s tenure and budgets, and requiring them to undergo additional training.

The new rules, which Garland announced the changes during a virtual speech to the International Association of Chiefs of Police, are the culmination of a four-month DOJ review aimed at bolstering public confidence in the DOJ’s efforts to rein in abusive policing.

Since becoming Attorney General, Garland has launched sweeping “pattern of practice” investigations into the Minneapolis, Louisville and Phoenix police departments. Probes such as these can result in federal intervention in the form of court-mandated consent decrees detailing reform plans.

However local politicians, police chiefs and police unions have long complained about these consent decrees – primarily because they often stretch on for years, ultimately harming police morale and frustrating local communities.

The federal monitoring teams, comprised of former police officials, lawyers, academics and police-reform “consultants,” typically bill local taxpayers anywhere from one to two million dollars a year for their work. It is not uncommon for some of these monitors to serve on multiple teams at the same time – a practice that has drawn complaints about conflicts of interests.

In his speech, Garland said that implementing these news rules is the DOJ is responding these concerns.

Under the new rules, monitoring teams would be subject to unspecified term limits which would be set prior to their being hired. The federal judge in charge of the settlement would also conduct periodic performance reviews and make any necessary changes if needed. The monitoring team would only be permitted to continue beyond the negotiated term limit if it is reappointed by the judge.

Additionally, all monitors must meet federal standards prior to being hired. And once hired, must undergo additional training. What’s more, the new rules prevent monitors from serving on multiple teams simultaneously.

In order to hand back greater autonomy to local agencies while federal monitors do their work, the DOJ and the judge will be allowed to slim down the scope of the consent decrees to make them less onerous as local law enforcement agencies demonstrate progress.