Section 14141 of the 1994 Crime Act empowers the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate and drive reform of local law enforcement agencies found to have engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct. During the Trump administration, the DOJ willfully allowed its powers under this section to lie dormant, despite a number of high-profile incidents of police violence against Black Americans. Active enforcement of Section 14141 affords the federal executive branch significant opportunities to promote lawful policing. Using its pattern-or-practice authority, the DOJ has guided dozens of law enforcement agencies through a process designed to remedy systemic unlawful activity and establish systems built to enable a more accountable and transparent brand of policing. And yet, a close examination of these efforts over the last twenty-five years raises significant questions about whether the initiative is positioned to deliver on the hopes attached to it. Until the DOJ moves away from the exclusive reliance on technocratic solutions to address the symptoms of problems rooted in racial inequity, and instead positions pattern-or-practice reform to address the deep mistrust between police and communities of color, the aims of this effort will continue to fall short.

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