Originally uploaded at SSRN.


In response to a crisis that threatens his tenure as Mayor of Chicago, Rahm Emanuel announced in December 2015 reform measures designed to curb aggressive police tactics by the Chicago Police Department (CPD). The reform measures are limited, but aim to reduce deadly police-citizen encounters by arming the police with more tasers, and by requiring that officers undergo deescalation training. Though allegations of excessive force have plagued the department for years, the death of Laquan McDonald, an African-American teenager who was fatally shot by Jason Van Dyke, a white officer with the CPD, was the impetus for the Mayor’s reforms. McDonald was shot sixteen times. Dash cam footage revealed that McDonald was holding a small knife and, in contravention of reports prepared by Van Dyke and several other police officers, was walking away from the officers at the time of the shooting.

Emanuel’s reform measures have been met with skepticism. It has been noted, for example, that CPD officers have carried tasers for many years, and despite theexpanded use of the devices since 2010, there has been no “immediate” decrease in police shootings. And while many experts deem police de-escalation training to be beneficial, they argue that without effective supervision and identifiable measures to ensure officer accountability, such training might be of limited value.

Irrespective of the merits of these criticisms, police reforms, such as those announced by Emanuel, face a prospect for sustained success that is daunting. This Essay will explain why decisions rendered by the United States Supreme Court since the close of the Warren Court era in 1969, argue against the prospect of positive, sustained remedial change, and why meaningful, enduring police organizational improvements will be difficult to achieve absent the adoption of an expansive standing doctrine and a reinvigorated exclusionary rule. In making this argument, I will examine the DOJ’s employment of consent decrees as a mechanism to force positive remedial change, and explain why judicial oversight — an inherent aspect of the consent decree remedial process — is essential to the achievement of effectual police reform.