US Department of Justice unearths civil rights violations by Phoenix police department News
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US Department of Justice unearths civil rights violations by Phoenix police department

The US Department of Justice on Thursday found that the Phoenix Police Department and the City of Phoenix have engaged in excessive force, discrimination and general civil rights violations against Black, Latino, Native American and other marginalized communities. The findings were published in a 126-page report, ending an investigation that began in 2021.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland summarized the report in an accompanying press release, stating:

Our comprehensive investigation revealed unlawful and unconstitutional practices in the Phoenix Police Department’s enforcement activities that impact some of Phoenix’s most vulnerable residents, including Black, Hispanic, and Native American people, homeless people, and those experiencing behavioral health crises. The police also used excessive force, delayed necessary medical aid, and infringed on the civil rights of those engaged in First Amendment-protected conduct, including demonstrations and protests.

Garland also expressed hope that the release of the investigation’s findings would lead toward progress in improving relations between marginalized communities and law enforcement as well as provide a launch pad for institutional reform.

The report cited 34 USC Section 12601 as the legal authority for the investigation, which prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in a “pattern or practice of conduct” that “deprives persons of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

The report blamed many of the violations on poor training and a chain of command that approved of “nearly all instances” of excessive force. Some practices that were condemned in the report included the unreasonable use of tasers, lack of control over police dogs, misuse of leg restraints, “force first” practices and gratuitous force against handcuffed individuals.

The department vowed to work closely with the city and the local police department to come to a “comprehensive court-enforceable settlement” to rectify the issues. The press release also proposed independent monitoring as part of the effort to correct the practices.

Arizona is no stranger to the use of questionable police tactics. In 2017, former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt for failing to abide by a court order to stop detaining Latinos based solely on their immigration status. The Department of Justice has several open investigations regarding police departments around the country including cases in Mississippi, Minnesota, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Oklahoma.