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A Conference To Destroy Law & Order
It Takes A Special Invitation To Attend This Police Conference
I just returned from a fantastic week in Elkhart (IN) at the Breaching The Barricade Conference and I will be in Nevada, Texas, Florida and Washington in the next few months speaking at other conferences but there is one conference this month that I was not invited to speak. In fact, unlike all other police conferences, law enforcement can only attend this conference by special invitation only and I am definitely not special.
It’s a conference dedicated to making cities more violent, blowing up budgets, and convincing cops to quit the profession.
It’s not the annual fish fry with Antifa but rather, it’s the annual “Consent Decree” conference by the Department of Justice.
I’m not sure that is the actual name of the conference because unlike every other conference, there is no website, no published agenda, and no open registration. I only found out about it because an associate with the DOJ told me.
You read that right.
One of the most dangerous concepts to ever visit our profession, consent decrees, actually have an annual conference.
It began in 2016 and was attended by DOJ Civil Rights Attorneys, federal judges, monitor teams and police chiefs. The first conference had representatives from Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Ferguson (Missouri), Maricopa County (Arizona), New Orleans, Newark, Puerto Rico, Seattle, and the Virgin Islands.
If you saw a pattern in those attendees, you would be correct. Seven years after their inaugural get together, no one is booking their summer vacation to any of those locations.
Albuquerque and Baltimore have become two of the most dangerous cities in America. Last year was the deadliest year in Maricopa County history. Violence in New Orleans is so bad, the media labeled it a “horrific year” and Seattle is doing so great, there are more than 250,000 residents looking to leave because of violence and and the inability to find a Target to shop in.
A ‘Don’t Miss’ Conference
With the apparent success at future community destruction that the attendees will have attending this conference, I began to wonder what the conference agenda would look like.
While I doubt there are classes on how to communicate with transparency or how to use correct methodology in research, maybe Vanita Gupta, the former head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division, will give the keynote on how to eliminate qualified immunity for law enforcement? That sounds like an exciting talk and considering she has attended this special conference in the past, it’s possible.
The only thing more surprising than a secret law enforcement conference dedicated to three decades of disaster is that anyone in law enforcement would actually go to it and I’m intrigued at who will be attending this year?
Will Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone attend? Considering he recently announced that he is resigning because the consent decree has made it impossible to protect his citizens and his county is paying over $200,000 a month for a monitor that hasn’t visited in three years, I’m thinking he wasn’t invited.
How about Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan? Considering he came to Phoenix by Louisville through Baltimore, he has plenty of experience with the damage caused by consent decrees but I’m not sure that sort of training will be on the agenda.
If he is attending, it certainly would look suspicious considering Phoenix has not volunteered to be one of the cool kids and get a consent decree yet. But if he does attend, it would only confirm what others have said about a possible “Fix” already being in.
Not only was Sullivan given an interim contract in Phoenix on the heels of Attorney Michael Bromwich receiving a one million dollar contract to consult the city on the DOJ investigation, both Bromwich and Sullivan have been involved in consent decrees. Bromwich served as a consent decree monitor in Washington D.C. (another super safe city) and Sullivan came from Baltimore who is under a consent decree.
So if Chief Sullivan or any other police chief is attending this conference while not under a consent decree, what is going on?
I’m not certain what is going on but if you told me that there was a secret gathering of individuals with a secret agenda to discuss an enterprise where billions of dollars has been spent by the consumers (taxpayers) to keep the enterprise going, I would be thinking this was more of a criminal conspiracy than a law enforcement conference.
Considering the DOJ does not communicate the status of their investigations to the jurisdictions they are investigating (Phoenix, etc.) and the goal of this conference is “for the parties to share their perspectives and experiences so that the consent decree process might go more smoothly and be more effective,” why would any law enforcement leader attend unless they were planning to voluntarily let the DOJ run their department?
Before you say that no true leader would want the federal government to control their every decision, you may want to pay attention to a recent article in the New York Times saying that “experience running a department with a consent decree has become a plum line on a chief’s résumé.”
Considering Sullivan jumped from Deputy Commissioner of Baltimore’s compliance bureau (consent decree) to the Interim Police Chief in Phoenix with a $232,000 annual salary, there may be some merit to the assertion from the Times.
What Does This Mean?
I want to be clear. I have no idea who is attending this month’s consent decree conference and I only mention Chief Sullivan because Phoenix is the next target of the DOJ. I can’t imagine what any police chief could learn attending a conference hosted by the same folks that are investigating their agency for allegations of discrminatory policing.
I don’t know Chief Sullivan but it appears that he has Phoenix going in the right direction. While he is facing a tremendous issue with staffing, his crime reduction plan and policy changes should serve the citizens well.
Given the thirty-year disaster that are consent decrees, it would be hard to imagine that Sullivan would ever recommend that path for Phoenix. Unless the citizens want to join the “mile-high crime” club of the previous conference attendees, I wouldn’t want anyone in my police department within 100 miles of the annual DOJ Consent Decree Conference (or whatever they are calling it).
I have spent a considerable amount of time discussing consent decrees here and while it’s a major issue for law enforcement leadership, I also understand that you may not have signed up here to get a degree in consent decrees. Unfortunately, very few others are speaking about this extremely dangerous practice and I am deeply concerned for our communities if they continue. My criticism of consent decrees have nothing to do with my desire to see law enforcement progress, reform and excel. In fact, my desire for professional law enforcement and safe communities is why I have spoken up about the dangers of consent decrees. Anyone that looks at this issue through the prism of logic would come to the same conclusion. The responsibility for great policing lies on the shoulders of police leaders and if Phoenix or any other city is not happy with their police department, new leadership is needed and not federal intervention.
Update: October 16, 2023
After publishing this article, Dr. Alex del Carmen, Associate Dean of Tarleton State University, College of Liberal and Fine Arts, indicated on social media that the conference was open to the public. I asked if I could attend and he graciously added my name to the attendee roster. I was sent an e-mail asking for information and a day later I received confirmation and an agenda. The conference is called "2023 Consent Decree Conference" and I am hopeful that next year, the law enforcement community can be pointed to a website for registration. I was told that this existed but was removed as the conference filled up. The conference is sponsored by the Tarleton State University School of Criminology and the Federal Bar Association.
Dr. Travis Yates retired as a commander with a large municipal police department after 30 years of service. He is the author of “The Courageous Police Leader: A Survival Guide for Combating Cowards, Chaos & Lies.” His risk management and leadership seminars have been taught to thousands of professionals across the world. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy with a Doctorate Degree in Strategic Leadership and the CEO of the Courageous Police Leadership Alliance.