DOJ investigations of pattern or practice police misconduct resume (and shift course)

You might have noticed in the news today, as per, that the DOJ has commenced an investigation of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio – a man known for the strict enforcement of laws – and who is hated by the political left.  The article doesn’t say so, but his Sheriff’s Department is being investigated by the Special Litigation Section of the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ – a place I once worked.

It’s probably not a coincidence that this investigation comes on the heels of the inauguration of President Obama.  Either every career liberal in the DOJ has finally been given a green light to conduct their dream investigations, or grateful federal employees are scrambling to secure their jobs in light of the sudden shift in political leaning in the executive branch.

The Special Litigation Section is responsible for pattern or practice police misconduct investigations (among other things) – which results only in civil – not criminal – litigation.  Individual incidents could be prosecuted criminally by the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division.  

You will notice from the few and far between police misconduct investigations in the past 8 years, that they were not high on the Bush Administrations’ priority list – except to assist law enforcement agencies throughout the country in evading civil 1983 lawsuits.  For instance, see this letter to the Austin Police Department from the SLS.  By the way, this letter, and others that the DOJ provides the public, contains some great stuff for plaintiff’s attorneys, or anyone else who wants to learn more about proper “use of force” and “supervisory oversight” and other policies and procedures for police departments – at least according to the DOJ.

Nevertheless, the SLS has not yet even listed the Arpaio investigation in it’s website.  And until then, the public will not know what the specific allegations are.

 – John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney.

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