Consent decree explained

A consent decree is a legally binding settlement agreement enforced by the court.


When the Department of Justice (DOJ) finds evidence of a pattern and practice of unlawful policing, they generally settle the case with an order enforced by a federal court. These orders are usually called consent decrees. The term reflects that the order was negotiated and agreed to by the DOJ and the City that was investigated.

A consent decree is a legally binding agreement, where the court supervises the implementation of the agreement.


Often the consent decree names an independent monitor to oversee the agreement. This is done through a monitoring team. The team regularly reports progress to the court and to the community.

Measuring compliance is a very complex and technical process.

Consent decrees require transformational change. A city complies with a consent decree when it demonstrates:

  • It has implemented all the required improvements to policy, training, technology, and operations
  • Those improvements have translated into measurable, sustainable, constitutional, community-oriented policing