Devin J. McCowan


The Jurisdiction-Stripping Consent Decree: A Practical Tool Towards Police Abolition

Devin J. McCowan

A person is killed by law enforcement. There’s outrage. Hurt communities cry for reform. Things change on the margin. People move on. And the story repeats.

Every year, hundreds of individuals die at the hands of police officers despite repeated attempts at reform. This senseless cycle has caused many to question the efficacy of reform in favor of a more revolutionary proposal—police abolition.

Police abolition is a worthy and necessary ambition, but one that needs practical steps to achieve it. To that end, this Note excavates the history of failed attempts at police reform and finds a nugget of hope among the wreckage—The Jurisdiction-Stripping Consent Decree.

The Jurisdiction Stripping Consent Decree reimagines police litigation through the lens of abolitionism by using existing tools at the disposal of the Department of Justice to force police departments to reduce their domain of power in society through court-enforced consent decrees.

By engaging in radical civil rights litigation through non-reformist reforms of police departments’ most invidious abuses, the Jurisdiction-Stripping Consent Decree can put America on a viable path towards police abolition.