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Detroit Police may soon be free of federal oversight. / Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT - After 11 years, the Detroit Police Department soon may start operating without the watchful eye of a federal monitor.

The city and the U.S. Department of Justice have jointly filed a motion, asking a U.S. District Court judge to no longer require federal oversight of the city's Police Department. In the motion filed Friday, the city and Justice Department asked the court to terminate the use of force and arrest and witness detention consent judgment on Aug. 18.

The city and Justice Department agreed to enter into an 18-month transition agreement. Under that agreement, the Justice Department would review and evaluate the Police Department's internal audits, conduct on-site visits and provide "comments and technical assistance where needed, to ensure that DPD's reform efforts continue and are sustained."

The city entered into two consent decrees with the justice department in 2003 after police were accused of unconstitutional conduct, including excessive use of force and illegal detentions.

The consent decrees came after a Detroit Free Press investigation that uncovered excessive use of deadly force, illegal dragnet arrests of possible witnesses to crimes and improper treatment of prisoners.

In January, the court dismissed the consent judgment dealing with confinement conditions. According to the motion, the city was in full compliance with that consent judgment.

"The Detroit Police Department has fundamentally changed since this case was filed in June 2003," Melvin Butch Hollowell, Detroit's corporation counsel, said in a statement posted on the city's website. "Today, DPD's practices are consistent with constitutional policing standards."

The city and justice department are asked the court to dismiss the federal monitor, who is paid $87,825 a month - a fee covered by taxpayers.

Spokesmen for the Police Department, Mayor Mike Duggan, emergency manager Kevyn Orr and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment.

According to the motion, "serious uses of force have drastically declined and the DPD has completely ended the practice of arresting and detaining witnesses."

The motion also says, the Police Department:

-- Has had 17 fatal shootings in the past five years, compared with 47 in the five years before the Justice Department's investigation.

-- Averages less than 28 shootings per year, compared with 69 per year before the investigation.

-- Has established an audit team, staffed with sworn and civilian auditors "to conduct department-wide audits to track the performance of all aspects of the DPD."

-- Has established the Inspection Unit, compliance liaison officers and the Force Investigation Section "to perform intensive inspections of police practices from the precinct to the command levels."

The motion says that over the past 11 years, the city and Justice Department have worked together to implement new policies and procedures at the department.

"This work, although slow at first and difficult at times, has brought the city into compliance with most of the terms of the consent judgment, with some provisions having been in compliance for more than four years," the motion says.

Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor, said Friday that despite the consent decree running more than a decade, it's not unusual for government bodies to remain under years-long federal oversight when abuses are found.

Adding difficulty to Detroit emerging from oversight were its chronic budget problems and high turnover of police chiefs as well as a former mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, who the feds discovered, through text messages, had an in inappropriate relationship with a federal monitor, Sheryl Robinson Wood, appointed to oversee the troubled department.

But Henning also blamed a hefty dose of the delays on intransigence at the DPD.

"No government likes to be told what to do," Henning said. "They like to tell people what to do. They like to give orders. Police Departments are resistant to change - the thin blue line."



Copyright 2014 USATODAY.com

Read the original story: Detroit seeks end of federal oversight of police

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