DOJ Report Alleges Phoenix Police and City Officials Violated Civil Rights of Minorities and Homeless

DOJ Report Alleges Phoenix Police and City Officials Violated Civil Rights of Minorities and Homeless
A Phoenix police officer stands outside his vehicle in Phoenix on March 30, 2020. (Matt York/AP Photo)
Matt McGregor
The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued a 126-page report alleging that Phoenix, Arizona, city and law enforcement officials have violated the civil rights of minorities, the homeless, and children.
“The Justice Department has concluded there is reasonable cause to believe that the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives its residents and visitors, including Black, Hispanic, and Native American people, of their rights under the Constitution and federal law,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said in a June 13 press release.

In August 2021, the DOJ began investigating the Phoenix Police Department and the city of Phoenix officials, which included interviews with staff and community members, review of body camera footage, document reviews, and ridealongs.

The DOJ said in its executive summary that its findings reveal “systematic problems” in which city officials and law enforcement ignored the civil rights of its citizens, with “pervasive failings” in training.

In addition, those who are delegated to hold staff accountable “have disguised and perpetuated these violations for years,” the DOJ said.

The DOJ alleged that the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) has used excessive and deadly force, unlawfully detained and arrested homeless people while disposing of their belongings unlawfully, discriminated against minorities, violated Free Speech protections, and discriminated against those with mental health problems.

The report also alleged that the PPD’s treatment of children “raised serious concerns” due to their aggressive nature.

The DOJ alleged that the PPD has one of the highest rates of deadly shootings.

“Some city officials blamed a ‘more violent population’ for the number of shootings, rather than police conduct,” the report said. “But we found a significant number of the shootings did not meet constitutional standards.”

‘Road to Reform’

In January 2024, the PPD issued its own report titled, “The Phoenix Police Department—The Road to Reform,” in response to the DOJ’s investigation.

The PPD argued that it “has been left in the dark” during the 29 months of the investigation, leaving the city and the PPD unable to respond “in a timely way.”

“As a result, one of the purposes of this report is to make the DOJ and the Phoenix community fully aware of the changes currently taking place in the City of Phoenix and PPD and make clear that a resolution of the DOJ’s investigation should fully take into account the scope and trajectory of these reforms,” the PPD said in its report.

The PPD said it had launched department-wide reforms related to its use of force and how it responds to those with mental health issues. These reforms came without input from the DOJ, the PPD added.

City Responds

After the city obtained the DOJ report, it issued a June 13 press release in which City Manager Jeff Barton stated that the allegations are being taken seriously and that the report will be reviewed “with an open mind.”

“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,” Mr. Barton said.

According to the press release, the city also sent to the DOJ a letter in which City Attorney Julue Kriegh emphasized that it was the first time the city had to review the report.

She addressed the PPD’s January report, stating that it is intended to give “a full picture of the broad set of activity implemented, or in the process of being implemented, in the five subject areas identified in the announcement of your investigation in August 2021.”

She said that the Phoenix City Council has been in communication with community members and invested in “substantial public expenditures” to improve policies and programs, such as approving funding for body cameras, homeless and mental health support, and raising salaries for 911 operators.

The Epoch Times contacted the city of Phoenix and the PPD for comment on the DOJ’s report.