Federal Intervention in Local Policing: Pittsburgh's Experience with a Consent Decree [open pdf - 991KB]
"When something goes seriously wrong in one of the nation's nearly 18,000 local police agencies, usually it is local officials who are responsible for fixing the problem. But when the local political process cannot resolve problems of police misconduct, the federal courts and the U. S. Department of Justice have a variety of powers that allow them to intervene. Congress expanded those powers in 1994, giving the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department the authority to file civil law suits against states and municipalities in the face of a 'pattern or practice' of illegal or unconstitutional police actions. In the decade since it received that new authority, the Department of Justice has investigated police practices in jurisdictions from New York to California. In some cases, the Department of Justice filed lawsuits, but none of these cases went to trial. Instead, six local governments to date have settled these cases through one or more consent decrees. Nine other investigations avoided litigation entirely when the parties signed a memorandum of agreement or understanding. Both the consent decrees and the memorandum agreements generally outline a specific series of reforms that the police department must implement, and most provide for a federal monitor to oversee compliance."
Office of Community Oriented Policing Services: http://www.cops.usdoj.gov/