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Phoenix PD, city to review DOJ’s findings following 3-year civil rights investigation

“The City of Phoenix and Phoenix Police Department of today are materially different than the department that you investigated,” the city said in a letter to the DOJ

Justice Department Policing Probe

Michael Sullivan, the interim police chief for the Phoenix Police Department, speaks a news conference, Feb. 7, 2023, in Phoenix.

Gregory Payan/AP

By Sarah Roebuck

PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of Justice has released its findings following a nearly three-year civil rights investigation of the Phoenix Police Department.

The DOJ released a 126-page report that found the department engaged “in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”

The report is broken up into five major findings: excessive use of force; unlawfully detaining, citing and arresting people experiencing homelessness; discrimination against Black, Hispanic, and Native American people; violating the rights of people engaged in protected speech and expression; and discrimination against people with behavioral health disabilities.

Following the report’s release, the city of Phoenix stated that leaders are eager to review the evidence and insights provided by the DOJ to support its findings.

“We are taking all allegations seriously and are planning to review this lengthy report with an open mind,” City Manager Jeff Barton said in a message to city employees. “Self-reflection is an important step in continuous improvement, and our Police Department has demonstrated a commitment to reform by making improvements to policy, discipline, internal investigations and training.”

In a letter sent to the DOJ, city leaders stated they would take the necessary time to review the report, as it is important to avoid making decisions that could impact public safety without thorough consideration.

“We want to see not only what these individual incidents are that the Department of Justice refers to, but we also want to see whether it included policy change or whether it possibly included discipline, or other changes within the department as far as practices go,” said Interim Police Chief Michael Sullivan.

The city stated they have fully cooperated with the DOJ’s investigation throughout the past 34 months by turning over thousands of requested documents, body worn camera videos, giving access to trainings, interviews and ride-alongs.

“The City of Phoenix and Phoenix Police Department of today are materially different than the department that you investigated,” the city said in the letter.

Since the investigation began in August 2021, the police department has undergone a leadership change. Chief Jeri Williams retired after 33 years in law enforcement, and she was replaced on an interim basis by Sullivan. Sullivan, who previously served as deputy commissioner overseeing police reform in Baltimore, is expected to serve up to two years while the city searches for a permanent chief.

Under Sullivan’s leadership, the department revised its use of force policy to require that any force used by officers be not only reasonable but also proportional and necessary under the circumstances.

DOJ Phoenix PD findings report by Sarah on Scribd