The Civil Rights Enforcement Section's mission includes assisting the Attorney General on civil rights issues in the area of police practices. The Office of the Attorney General maintains a policy governing the review of complaints received by the Department of Justice that allege police misconduct by local law enforcement agencies or their employees. Under that policy, complaints received by this office from complainants who have exhausted the local review process will be referred to both the Criminal Law Division and the Civil Rights Enforcement Section for review and appropriate action.
Additional significant matters focused on police practices handled by the Civil Rights Enforcement Section include the following:
In July 2014, in the case, Los Angeles Police Protective League v. City of Los Angeles, the Attorney General filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the Los Angeles Police Department's (LAPD) exercise of managerial discretion to issue Special Order 7. Special Order 7 prohibits officers from invoking the fixed 30-day impound statute for vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers in certain circumstances. Special Order 7 was implemented to provide a clear directive to officers on how to handle the various discretionary Vehicle Code impound statutes and to address allegations of disparate treatment and other concerns raised by the city's immigrant community. The Los Angeles Police Protective League challenged Special Order 7, principally arguing that it unlawfully deprived individual officers of discretion to impound a vehicle as allowed under the Vehicle Code. The Attorney General's brief argued that the LAPD's decision to exercise vehicle impound discretion at the managerial level, thereby limiting individual officer's discretion, is a lawful exercise of the LAPD's authority and is consistent with California law enforcement tradition. The brief further argued that to maximize public safety, law enforcement agencies must retain the authority to evaluate the unique needs of their particular communities and officers, and determine when the issuance of discretion-limiting directives are appropriate. On December 26, 2014, the California Court of Appeal issued a decision concluding that Special Order 7 is within the broad discretion of the police chief, and that neither the Protective League nor the individual taxpayer who filed the action had standing to challenge the policy.
On July 21, 2009, the Attorney General secured a court order compelling the City of Maywood to implement critical use-of-force and related reforms within its Police Department. The order capped a comprehensive investigation of the Maywood Police Department by the Attorney General that uncovered patterns of excessive use of force, and a conspicuous absence of meaningful articulation of probable cause to justify arrests and searches and reasonable suspicion to detain members of the public. In March 2009, the Attorney General issued 30-page public report regarding this investigation and the Attorney General's findings. Effective July 1, 2010, the City of Maywood elected to disband its police department and contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for police services.
In the late spring of 1999, after concluding that the four officers who were involved in the shooting death of Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California, should not be criminally charged, the Attorney General launched a civil investigation of the Riverside Police Department. On March 5, 2001, the Office of the Attorney General filed a complaint and stipulated judgment in People of the State of California, etc. v. City of Riverside. This stipulated judgment resolved a nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the practices and policies of the City's police department. It is believed that this was the first consent decree to reform a local police department ever secured by a state attorney general under state law. The judgment, which remained in effect for a period of five years, required the Riverside Police Department to implement reforms in the areas of training, supervision, and accountability. The City of Riverside was required to pay the cost of a consultant to assist the Attorney General in monitoring compliance with the terms of the judgment. On March 2, 2006, the Attorney General, after concluding that the Riverside Police Department had fulfilled the conditions of the judgment, requested and received formal approval from the court for the judgment's dissolution.