Q: Is there a federal agency with the authority to conduct administrative investigations of city police deptartaments?

Is there a federal agency with the authority to conduct administrative investigations of city police departments and other local agencies when they have information about violations like abuse of power, bribery and the like? Only the OIG comes to mind, but as I understand it, it cannot conduct such investigations on its own without authorization from the local state attorney's office or police department office. Could I be wrong? Or are there other entities that handle this? The main point is that they have to be specifically federal.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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A: Yes, there is a federal agency with the authority to conduct administrative investigations of city police departments for issues like abuse of power or corruption. This agency is the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), particularly through its Civil Rights Division. The DOJ has the mandate under several federal statutes, including the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, to investigate law enforcement agencies for patterns or practices of conduct that violate constitutional or federal rights.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a part of the DOJ, can also conduct investigations into criminal activities like bribery within local police departments. These investigations are typically independent and do not require authorization from local state attorney’s offices or police department offices.

If there are credible allegations of serious misconduct, such as systemic abuse of power or civil rights violations, the DOJ can initiate a pattern or practice investigation. These investigations aim to reform police departments and ensure compliance with federal laws. It's crucial for local agencies to cooperate with these investigations to ensure accountability and the protection of citizens' rights.

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