Search About Subscribe Donate

Why is it So Hard for the Justice Department to Curb Police Abuse?

Ask the experts in a Facebook chat Friday at noon ET.

Update 3:53 p.m. 04.24.2015

Chat is done. Thanks to everyone who participated!

Key takeaways:

To check out the full chat, go here:

Original Story

In 1999, the Justice Department ordered reforms to curb racial profiling by New Jersey police. In 2007, according to a forthcoming study by Columbia Law School Professor Jeffrey Fagan, black and Latino drivers were still three times more likely to be stopped than whites.

Under a statute known as 14141, the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division has the authority to investigate state and local law-enforcement agencies suspected of repeated civil rights violations. If federal and local officials agree that change is needed, the Department of Justice will impose reforms that may include dashboard cameras, new training, or computerized databases.

But a recent investigation by Simone Weichselbaum, published at The Marshall Project and TIME, found these reforms often don’t last. The Justice Department admitted that they chose poor benchmarks in the past and had failed to adequately monitor the changes. The process costs taxpayers millions of dollars. And years later, the same civil rights abuse tends to resurface.

“We continue to learn from each of our agreements and, frankly, improve on the way we enforce the statute,” Mark Kappelhoff, a senior official in the Civil Rights Division, told The Marshall Project. “That learning continues up until today.”

So why is this so tough? This Friday at 12 pm ET, you can ask the experts in a chat on The Marshall Project’s Facebook page. We’ll be joined by reporter Simone Weichselbaum, William Yeomans, a 26-year veteran of the Civil Rights Division, and Stephen Rushin, a law professor at the University of Illinois, who is an expert on 14141 investigations.

Before you go...

Can you help us make a difference?

The Marshall Project produces journalism that makes an impact. Our investigation into violence using police dogs prompted departments from Indiana to Louisiana to change their policies. Thousands of cameras were installed in the infamous Attica prison after we revealed the extent of violent abuse by guards. Municipalities stopped charging parents for their kids’ incarceration because of our reporting. Supreme Court justices have cited us, along with incarcerated people acting as their own lawyers.

The type of reporting we practice takes persistence, skill and, above all, time, which is why we need your support. Donations from readers like you allow us to commit the time and attention needed to tell stories that are driving real change. We could not do it without you.

Please donate to The Marshall Project today. We’re extremely grateful to each and every donor who helps power our journalism. Your support goes a long way toward sustaining this important work.