The U.S. Justice Department opened a pattern-or-practice investigation into city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department, federal law-enforcement officials announced Thursday. The investigation will root out whether the police department retaliates against people for using their First Amendment rights, unlawfully takes or destroys the belongings of the homeless, and all types of force used by officers. According to The Arizona Republic, the police department shot 26 people in 2020, killing 11.
The investigation will also include a review of department policies, training, and internal affairs processes.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said Thursday the investigation comes after a review of court files, media reports, and citizen complaints. The investigation is the third of its kind Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced since taking office, and he said in the news conference that the goal was to “promote transparency and accountability.” Such police department-wide probes, a hallmark of the Obama era, ground to a halt under the Trump administration.
Garland on Thursday specifically called attention to the impending risks of mass evictions in the future, which he said would add to the “crisis of homelessness" in Phoenix and around the country—and lead to more police being called to deal with people experiencing mental health crises who do not have housing. “As we have repeatedly seen,” he said, “the risks to everyone involved in such interactions are enormous.”
In a statement on Twitter, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said she welcomed the investigation and that the department has implemented many reforms since 2019, but “recognize there is much more work to do.”