Phoenix Police Also Are In for a Federal Investigation

Garland announces third review of a city's law enforcement activities
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 5, 2021 5:06 PM CDT
Garland Launches Investigation Into Phoenix Police Accusations
Attorney General Merrick Garland, accompanied by Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, speaks Thursday at a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington.   (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The US Justice Department is launching a widespread probe into the police force in Phoenix to examine whether officers have been using excessive force and abusing people experiencing homelessness. The investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department is the third sweeping civil investigation into a law enforcement agency brought by the Justice Department during the Biden administration as the department has worked to shift its priorities to focus on policing and civil rights. Few such investigations were opened during the Trump administration. US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the probe will also examine whether police have engaged in discriminatory policing practices, the AP reports, and will work to determine if officers have retaliated against people engaged in protected First Amendment activities.

In June, the top prosecutor in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, permanently dismissed charges that included gang allegations against more than a dozen people arrested at an October 2020 protest against police brutality. The move came amid complaints from civil rights advocates that Phoenix police and prosecutors were pursuing gang charges as part of abusive political prosecutions intended to silence dissent and scare protesters. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, a Democrat, hailed the Justice Department investigation and said it will help with ongoing police changes she has been pushing since taking office in 2019. "Public safety reform is an ongoing process in Phoenix, and now, with the help of the USDOJ, this robust program will continue," Gallego said in a statement. In announcing the probe, Garland also pointed to what he described as "straining the policing profession by turning to law enforcement to address a wide array of social problems."

(Read more police investigation stories.)

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