According to the Center for American Progress, an independent thinktank, violent crime rates dropped in 10 jurisdictions that enacted comprehensive police reform.
The group analyzed violent crime rates in 10 jurisdictions where the police department fulfilled a reform agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, following a pattern-or-practice investigation of systemic police misconduct.
The authors based their analysis on estimates of violent crime rates from the FBI’s “Crime in the United States” publications spanning from 1995 to 2019. The publications cover the entire timeline within which the agreements were reached and fulfilled. These agreements emphasized institutional reforms to address systemic police misconduct—as opposed to isolated instances of wrongdoing. The analysis considered the pre- and post-agreement rates in all 10 jurisdictions, where four of these agreements were consent decrees and six were memorandums of agreement.
It found that violent crime rates declined in all 10 jurisdictions post-agreement, following the national trend. In all four jurisdictions where the police departments fulfilled a consent decree with the division, the pre- and post-agreement rates followed the national trend.
In Pittsburgh, the rate followed an upward national trend from 1995 to 1997, when the consent decree entered into force. Since 2002, when the consent decree was terminated, the rate followed a downward national trend for more than 15 years. In Easton, Pa., and Washington, D.C., where the police departments fulfilled a memorandum of agreement, the pre- and post-agreement rates also followed the national trend. In Beacon, N.Y., the rate had been fluctuating slightly pre-agreement but decreased slightly post-agreement. In Montgomery County, Maryland, and Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, the rates had been increasing pre-agreement but decreased post-agreement.
“We are all safer when our policing practices are fair, just, and equitable,” Betsy Pearl, associate director for Criminal Justice Reform at the Center for American Progress, said. “Our analysis debunks claims that police reform is a threat to public safety. When we look at the data instead of listening to fear-mongering rhetoric, we see no evidence that comprehensive police reform is associated with increased violence.”