Report: Crime up in Most Areas Where Police Operate Under Reform Agreements

Report: Crime up in Most Areas Where Police Operate Under Reform Agreements police handcuff man lying on ground Police officers detain a protester after a fight broke out during a protest in Los Angeles on Jan. 6, 2021. (RINGO CHIU/AFP via Getty Images)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 14 May 2021 08:08 AM

Violent crimes soared in most areas where police agencies are working under federally court-ordered reform agreements.

The finding comes from an Axios review of FBI and Justice Department data on all 12 agencies operating under consent decrees since 2012. The outlet found that seven of the areas where police agencies are under consent decrees experienced increases in violent crime rates in two years compared to the two years before they entered into the agreement.

Consent decrees are court-approved legal agreements reached without litigation. With it, a judge can keep tabs on a police department to make sure it is complying with court orders.

Here are the areas where violent crime skyrocketed two years after consent decrees.

  • Los Angeles County — 61%
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico — 36%
  • Seattle — 27%
  • New Orleans — 20%
  • Maricopa County, Arizona — 19%
  • Cleveland — 13%
  • Baltimore — 11%

Axios noted that the increase in Los Angeles County jumped after a consent decree with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. It said the agency has a troubled history among Black and Latino residents.

The outlet said the increase in violent crimes suggest that there could be unintended consequences to policing changes that many have called for since George Floyd’s death.

Still, Axios pointed out, municipalities with less than 50,000 people that entered into court agreements had declines in violent crime rates, including Ferguson, Missouri, a city of 21,000 people. Ferguson saw its crime rate drop by 7% during the same two-year comparison.

East Haven, Connecticut, and Warren, Ohio, also saw noticeable declines during the same time period after their decrees.

Axios said key data for two larger cities operating under consent decrees, Portland and Newark, New Jersey, was missing and could not be included in the comparison.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that the Justice Department would launch "pattern or practice" investigations into the police department in Minneapolis and Louisville following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

Last month, Garland reversed a Trump-era policy limiting the number of consent decrees the Department of Justice can use in pushing for changes at police departments and other agencies in abuse and misconduct cases.

Garland, in a memo to all U.S. attorneys and DOJ leaders, said the agency will ''return to the traditional process that allows the heads of litigating components to approve most settlement agreements, consent decrees, and the use of monitors in cases involving state and local governmental entities.'

''This memorandum makes clear that the Department will use all appropriate legal authorities to safeguard civil rights and protect the environment, consistent with longstanding Departmental practice and informed by the expertise of the Department’s career workforce,'' he added.

Meanwhile, Axios reported that Stephen Rushin, associate professor of law at Loyola University Chicago, said the reported crime surges may be short-lived. His study into 31 cities that operated under federal agreements between 1994 and 2016 revealed the increases were temporary and followed by a steady decline.

He said: "What it does is it suggests that those consent decree measures don't just go away after a year or two. They're normally (in place) pretty long-term. Then crime falls."