Civil Rights Division Highlights

The Justice Department announced today that it has found reasonable cause to believe that the Chicago Police Department (CPD) engages in a pattern or practice of using force, including deadly force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The department found that CPD officers’ practices unnecessarily endanger themselves and result in unnecessary and avoidable uses of force. The pattern or practice results from systemic deficiencies in training and accountability, including the failure to train officers in de-escalation and the failure to conduct meaningful investigations of uses of force. The city of Chicago and the Justice Department have signed an agreement in principle to work together, with community input, to create a federal court-enforceable consent decree addressing the deficiencies found during the investigation. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, head of the Civil Rights Division Vanita Gupta and U.S. Attorney Zachary T. Fardon of the Northern District of Illinois delivered remarks at a press conference announcing the findings.

The Justice Department announced that it has entered into a court-enforceable agreement with the city of Baltimore to resolve the department’s findings that the Baltimore City Police Department (BPD) engages in a pattern and practice of conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution as well as federal anti-discrimination laws. The consent decree, filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, creates a pathway toward lasting reform within BPD. The decree’s requirements focus on building community trust, creating a culture of community and problem-oriented policing, prohibiting unlawful stops and arrests, preventing discriminatory policing and excessive force, ensuring public and officer safety, enhancing officer accountability and making needed technological upgrades. Attorney General Lynch and Vanita Gupta delivered remarks at a press conference announcing the agreement.

Attorney General Lynch delivered capstone remarks on community policing at University of Baltimore School of Law and explained that the “division’s police reform work focuses on addressing systemic breakdowns in community-police trust. In Baltimore and around the country, restoring that trust is essential to advancing public safety.”

As part of the Justice Department’s commitment to working with communities and law enforcement to build stronger relationships and mutual trust, Attorney General Lynch announced the release of the “Attorney General’s Community Policing Report,” a summary of the Attorney General’s 12-city Community Policing Tour and the department’s four Regional Justice Forums.

The Justice Department announced that it has filed a motion to intervene in Common Cause New York et al. v. Board of Elections in the City of New York et al., a private lawsuit alleging that the New York City Board of Elections failed to comply with Section 8 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA). The lawsuit was filed by private plaintiffs on Nov. 3, 2016.

The Justice Department filed a proposed consent decree with the Palm Beach County, Florida, School Board to resolve a pregnancy discrimination lawsuit brought by the department under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Vanita Gupta delivered remarks at the Justice Department’s 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, explaining: “That’s what King wanted all of us to do: not to live a life of perfection, without struggle and failure, and not to let the status quo control our careers. But to find the courage and strength to lead, to inspire others, to take chances, to empower and lift our neighbors up. Through that process, man-by-man, woman-by-woman, community-by-community, he believed in America’s unyielding capacity for progress.”

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit to challenge the at-large method of electing the city council of Eastpointe, Michigan. The complaint alleges that the election system in Eastpointe violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by denying black citizens in the city the equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choice.

Former Chief of Police of Stevenson, Alabama, Daniel Winters, 56, was sentenced to 27 months in prison for beating an arrestee and for standing by while Winters’ friend beat the arrestee. On July 14, 2016, a federal jury convicted Winters of two counts of violating the individual’s civil rights. Winters was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Madeline Hughes Haikala of the Northern District of Alabama.

The Justice Department announced that it has moved to intervene in Disability Rights Florida Inc., v. Julie Jones, a private lawsuit alleging that the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) failed to protect the rights of inmates with disabilities in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.

Former Hancock County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark A. Cowden, 51, of Weirton, West Virginia, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for using excessive force against an arrestee.

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