DOJ opens civil rights investigation into Phoenix PD

It's the third such probe of policing brought by the Justice Department in the Biden administration


By Tom Schoenberg
Bloomberg News

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Justice Department will investigate the city of Phoenix and its police department for potential civil rights violations, including sweeps of homeless encampments, in the third such probe of policing since President Joe Biden took office.

Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters Thursday that investigators with the civil rights division will examine whether Phoenix police engage in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law, such as the use of excessive force, retaliating against protesters, improper jailing of people with mental health issues and destroying belongings of the homeless.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, accompanied by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, right, speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, to announce that the Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department.
Attorney General Merrick Garland, accompanied by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, right, speaks at a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, to announce that the Department of Justice is opening an investigation into the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“Too often we ask law enforcement officers to be the first and last option for addressing issues that should not be handled by the criminal justice system,” Garland said at a news conference. “This makes police officers’ jobs more difficult, increases unnecessary confrontations with law enforcement and hinders public safety.”

The Phoenix investigation follows two others, in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, announced earlier by Garland into “pattern or practices” by police departments, reviving a tool largely abandoned during the Trump administration.

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