news releases

2005.02.10 > For Immediate Release
contact: Tim Kaldahl - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.3502 - email: tkaldahl@mail.unomaha.edu

UNO Conference Examines Police Misconduct Litigation

Omaha - Do U.S. Department of Justice lawsuits against police departments result in meaningful reforms?  The impact of numerous "pattern or practice" litigation efforts against police departments is the subject of a two-day conference in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Police Professionalism Initiative (PPI).

The conference, set for Thursday and Friday, Feb. 10-11, will examine 10 years of litigation against police departments where there has been systematic misconduct, said Samuel Walker, a UNO professor of criminal justice and the conference's organizer.  Fifteen invited panelists and 50 invited participants are expected to attend.

In 1994, Congress enacted a law authorizing the Justice Department to sue police departments where there was a "pattern or practice" of abuse of citizens' rights.  Under the law, the Justice Department has sued about 20 police departments, Walker said. The most notable suits involved police departments in Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

"Pattern or practice litigation has been a major factor in policing for the past decade," Walker said. "But we don't know the full impact of these law suits, and that brings up the question of whether the law suits have achieved their goals of improving police accountability."

The conference will examine issues involving the implementation of consent decrees settling federal suits, problems related to organizational change in policing and measuring the impact of reforms.

Speakers at the conference will include police officials, community representatives, criminal justice scholars and officials from the U.S. Department of Justice.  Police officials and community leaders from Los Angeles, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh are among the invited speakers. 

A summary report of the proceedings will be issued by the UNO PPI in late March, 2005.

The PPI at UNO is funded by a special appropriation from the U.S. Congress in an effort to enhance police professionalism and accountability.  For more information, call (402) 554-3502.

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