The Justice Department and the city of Detroit have asked a judge to scale back federal monitoring of the city's police department after more than a decade of oversight.
The request was made Friday in a joint motion, asking U.S. District Court to terminate a consent judgment requiring oversight on Aug. 18 and dismiss a federal monitor. The Justice Department and Detroit want an 18-month transition agreement to replace current monitoring.
"The Detroit Police Department has fundamentally changed since this case was filed in June 2003. Today, DPD's practices are consistent with constitutional policing standards," Melvin Butch Hollowell, Detroit's corporation counsel, said in a statement.
If it goes forward, the transition agreement would require the Justice Department to review and evaluate police department internal audits, conduct visits and provide "comments and technical assistance where needed" to ensure improvements. The agreement "would facilitate the evolution of the DPD from an agency focused on the requirements of the consent judgment to an agency focused on sustaining effective and constitutional police practices," without outside oversight, the motion said.
The dismissal of the federal monitor also would mean the bankrupt city wouldn't need to pay a federal monitor more than $87,000 a month, a fee covered by taxpayers, Hollowell said.
The Justice Department began investigating the police department in 2000 after receiving complaints over the use of force and the treatment of crime suspects. Federal authorities sued the city in 2003 and the city signed consent decrees that year. According to the city and the Justice Department, significant progress has been made since that time.
The motion said that "serious uses of force have drastically declined and the DPD has completely ended the practice of arresting and detaining witnesses." It said that the department had 17 fatal shootings in the past five years; there were 47 in the five years before the Justice Department investigation.
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, a watchdog group, said it wants the consent judgment to remain in place and plans a court challenge. Spokesman Ron Scott told the Detroit Free Press that he doesn't believe that the culture of the department has changed.
"I think it's a ... lie that use of force has gone down," Scott said. "It has not."