WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department on Friday withdrew a policy put in place during former President Donald Trump’s administration that limited the tools the federal government could use to monitor and probe police misconduct.
Attorney General Merrick Garland in a memo to staff said the DOJ would return to its traditional practices of investigating state and local police departments, allowing unit heads to approve most settlements and consent decrees.
During Trump’s presidency, the DOJ in 2018 issued an instruction that limited legal tactics federal authorities could use to probe and regulate local police. Garland’s memo also declared that provisions of a Justice Department manual which incorporated Trump era changes should “be withdrawn.”
“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,” Garland said.
The DOJ had long used settlements and consent decrees to oversee local police departments that were accused of misconduct including excessive use of force against civilians.
Garland’s memo comes as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial facing a murder charge for the killing in May 2020 of George Floyd, one of a spate of high-profile police killings of Black Americans that spurred widespread anti-racism protests last year. (Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)