Attorney General Merrick Garland has revoked a Trump-era memo that restricted the use of consent decrees, which are often used by federal prosecutors in investigations of police departments. Garland issued a new memorandum on Friday that lifts some limitations from the use of consent decrees, making it easier for Justice Department prosecutors to address misconduct and abuse in police departments, and mandate reforms. “This memorandum makes clear that 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.
During the Obama administration, the then-attorney general often used consent decrees to probe law enforcement, including the police department involved in Ferguson, Missouri, after the killing of Michael Brown. Consent decrees were curtailed by ex-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, just before he resigned in 2018.