A Decade's Tale

Consent Decrees and Police Use of Disproportionate Excessive Force With Communities of Color

  • Dasha J. Rhodes Morgan State University
  • David L. Robinson Morgan State University School of Social Work
  • Paul C. Archibald Morgan State University School of Social Work
  • Laurens Van Sluytman Morgan State University School of Social Work
Keywords: African Americans, police, excessive force, policy, consent decree


According to the U.S. Department of Justice (US DOJ, 2016), African Americans have experienced disproportionate instances of police use of excessive force as a result of discriminatory practices and insufficient training. Officers are permitted to use appropriate force in specific situations; however, when force is excessive and deemed unnecessary, it then becomes an issue of concern. The U.S. Department of Justice was invited to investigate police departments that participated in the use of excessive force and a consent decree was developed with those departments to remedy the DOJ's findings. The researchers conducted a consent decree analysis examining government investigations of police practices throughout the U.S. between 2008 and 2018 comprising the following terms: police reform, consent decrees, settlement agreement, investigation reports, use-of-force, and policy to determine how prevalent excessive force was used towards African Americans. Findings indicated that within the decade, 14 cities were investigated, 12 were identified as using excessive force, with nine having their use-of-force policies available, and four municipalities using excessive force against African Americans. Social work values, advocacy, and cultural training were also identified to aid in the decrease of excessive force complaints.


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