University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name DOJ Investigation of Easton Police Department PN-PA-0018
Docket / Court docket unknown ( No Court )
State/Territory Pennsylvania
Case Type(s) Policing
Attorney Organization U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Case Summary
According to a local newspaper, on August 3, 2005, Easton's Mayor requested to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Easton Police Department (EPD)'s pattern of ... read more >
According to a local newspaper, on August 3, 2005, Easton's Mayor requested to the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Easton Police Department (EPD)'s pattern of excessive force established in federal civil rights lawsuits settled for nearly $5 million from 2002-2005. One of the cases was Cuvo v. De Bias, where the plaintiff received a $2.5 million police brutality settlement from Easton.

The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice conducts its broad “pattern or practice” investigations of local law enforcement agencies under a 1994 law that took shape after the beating of Rodney King by white officers of the Los Angeles Police Department.

That statute, known as 14141 after its section of the U.S. Code, allows the Justice Department to investigate almost any report of police actions that suggest a pattern of violations of citizens’ constitutional civil rights. Where the allegations are upheld, the department can seek agreement with local governments on policing reforms or – as it has done more aggressively under President Barack Obama – go to the federal courts to force changes under closely monitored consent decrees.

In October 2005, the DOJ opened an investigation of allegations of a pattern of police brutality including less-lethal weapons, vehicle pursuits, and canines pursuant to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, 42 U.S.C. § 14141.

On December 6, 2005, the EPD wrote back to the DOJ submitting revisions to the EDP's General Orders and also declining some recommendations. On January 9, 2006, the DOJ wrote to the EDP stating that declining the recommendations was problematic.

In the letter, the DOJ re-emphasized the soundness of its proposal to explicitly limit officers' emergency response driving speeds to 20 MPH over the speed limit. Also, the EDP has chosen to authorize pursuits for misdemeanors of the first degree or higher as established by the Pennsylvania Crimes Code. The DOJ stated this may result in potentially high speed vehicle pursuits in situations where the threat may not be serious enough to warrant such risk to officers or the public. The DOJ also stressed the City review the General Order and resolve these potentially confusing inconsistencies; specify the number of rounds the department authorizes its officers to carry, in addition to specifying the authorized ammunition officers may carry; include a discussion or list of susceptible populations to protect those most vulnerable citizens and provide officers with clear guidance that could prevent needless injuries or deaths.

On June 13, 2006, the DOJ provided the preliminary assessments of the following proposed Easton Police Department policies: (1) Arrest Procedures; (2) Mobile Video/Audio Recording Equipment; and (3) Administrative Investigations.

Specifically, the DOJ recommended that EPD re-write the policy to clearly outline the proper circumstances under which it is appropriate to make an arrest, and include citations to relevant statutes or cases; discuss the policy with counsel to ensure that the policy complies with the law but is no more restrictive than necessary; consider specifying two additional goals: officer safety and enhancement of officer performance; all EPD officers be trained to use the equipment; recording equipment be used to record all encounters with witnesses or 'suspects to the extent permitted by Pennsylvania law.

On January 21, 2010, the DOJ sent out a notice recommending a further technical assistance for the EPD's policies and practices. The technical assistance centered on Use of Force reports, use of force, investigation, and resolution of complaints, application of use of force statistics, and training. The DOJ found that the Use of Force reports needed more detail, better consistency among officers' reports, and better supervisory review.

Specifically, regarding use of force, the DOJ found that officers' drawing of firearms was statistically high and that the policy needed clarification on "low-ready" drawings,
that officers needed to attempt to verbally de-escalate situations before employing
force, that taser warnings were ineffective, and that officers needed to articulate
better why they deemed vehicle stops "high-risk." Regarding investigation and
resolution of complaints, the DOJ found investigations untimely, disorganized, and
lacking in basic protocols. Regarding training, the DOJ found that EPD officers were not consistently following policies and recommend that training be provided to reinforce certain policies and practices. Regarding use of force statistics, the DOJ found that the EPD's average number of uses of force incident to arrest possibly was dependent on inaccurate data. However, the DOJ acknowledged of the overall substantial improvement by the EPD during the course of the investigation.

On August 2010, the DOJ and EPD entered into a memorandum of agreement, which continued to monitor to ensure compliance until July 2015. The agreement contained provisions on the use of force reporting and review, de-escalation techniques, Taser use, high-risk stops, and investigations.

This case is probably closed, but the Clearinghouse does not have further information following the 2010 agreement.

Ginny Lee - 03/23/2017


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Content of Injunction
Follow recruitment, hiring, or promotion protocols
Goals and Timekeeping
Implement complaint/dispute resolution process
Monitoring
Other requirements regarding hiring, promotion, retention
Reporting
Required disclosure
Training
Defendant-type
Law-enforcement
General
Aggressive behavior
Disparate Treatment
Excessive force
Failure to supervise
Failure to train
Pattern or Practice
Plaintiff Type
U.S. Dept of Justice plaintiff
Special Case Type
Out-of-court
Causes of Action 42 U.S.C. § 14141
Defendant(s) Easton Police Department
Plaintiff Description Department of Justice
Indexed Lawyer Organizations U.S. Dept. of Justice Civil Rights Division
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Private Settlement Agreement
Order Duration 2010 - 2015
Filing Year 2005
Case Closing Year 2015
Case Ongoing No
Additional Resources
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  Data examining the Department of Justice's civil rights investigations of local and state police departments
Marshall Project
Date: Jan. 17, 2017
By: Tom Meagher (Marshall Project)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  The Civil Rights Division’s Pattern and Practice Police Reform Work: 1994-Present
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  An Interactive Guide to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reforms
https://www.justice.gov/
Date: Jan. 4, 2017
By: U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (U.S. Department of Justice)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  What Happens When Police Are Forced to Reform?
Date: Nov. 13, 2015
By: Kimbriell Kelly, Sarah Childress and Steven Rich (Frontline/Post)
Citation: Washington Post (Nov. 13, 2015)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Federal Enforcement of Police Reform
Date: 2014
By: Stephen Rushin (University of Illinois College of Law, University of California, Berkeley - Jurisprudence and Social Policy Program Faculty)
Citation: 82 Fordham Law Review 3189 (2014)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
No docket sheet currently in the collection
General Documents
Findings Letter Re: General Orders: Code of Conduct (1-2); Use of Force (4-14); and Police Response and Pursuit Procedures (5-1)
PN-PA-0018-0001.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/09/2006
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Findings Letter
PN-PA-0018-0002.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 06/13/2006
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Re: Department of Justice Investigation of the Easton Police Department
PN-PA-0018-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 11/26/2007
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Re: Investigation of the Easton Police Department
PN-PA-0018-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 01/21/2010
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Agreement
PN-PA-0018-0005.pdf | External Link | Detail
Date: 08/06/2010
Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation Section
Plaintiff's Lawyers Brown Cutlar, Shanetta Y. (District of Columbia)
PN-PA-0018-0003 | PN-PA-0018-0004
Gregg, Tammie (District of Columbia)
PN-PA-0018-0001 | PN-PA-0018-0002
Preston, Judith C. (District of Columbia)
PN-PA-0018-0005
Defendant's Lawyers Murphy, William K. (Pennsylvania)
PN-PA-0018-0005

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