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DOJ: Phoenix police violated civil rights, showed patterns of discrimination

The review claims the Phoenix Police Department would often retaliate against those who spoke up about violations.
Justice Department Policing Probe
Posted at 2:03 PM, Jun 13, 2024

The Department of Justice said its review of the Phoenix Police Department shows a pattern of conduct that violates several constitutional amendments and civil rights.

DOJ officials say their investigation found the department discriminated against communities of color and the homeless population.

In 2021, the city and its police department went under a sweeping federal probe that was focused on the use of force, discriminatory policing, the treatment of people experiencing homelessness, response to people in crisis and retaliation against protesters.

Read the full report from the DOJ below:

On Thursday, the DOJ said the department ignored warning signs of the civil rights violations and discriminatory patterns.

The report also states the department would often retaliate against those who spoke up about the violations.

The DOJ pattern or practice investigation looked at five areas of concern including the use of force, protecting First Amendment rights and treatment of people with mental or behavioral health problems.

Federal lawyers and investigators received more than 147,000 documents and 22,000 body-worn camera videos. They interviewed 130 police and city employees and rode along for 200 hours with Phoenix officers.

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In December 2023, Scripps News Phoenix learned that a meeting had taken place between Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan and DOJ investigators the previous month. The meeting was believed to be one of the last major steps in the yearslong civil rights probe.

The DOJ stated Thursday that since the investigation opened, the department has made some changes including additional training and policy implementation, but said more reform needs to be made.

Following the DOJ's announcement, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego released the following statement:

“Just a few moments ago, at the same time as the public, the City of Phoenix received the federal government’s findings report. The City Council will meet this month—in Executive Session on June 25—to receive legal advice, better understand the report, and discuss next steps. I will carefully and thoroughly review the findings before making further comment.”

City leaders did not expect to get an advance copy before its public release. City council members explained that they would only be allowed to see the report early if they signed an agreement in principle to negotiate a consent decree with the DOJ.

City officials were “surprised and disappointed” that federal investigators wouldn't show them a draft copy of their investigation into Phoenix police.

This story was originally published by Scripps News Phoenix.