Justice Department launches investigation into Phoenix policing practices

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will open a civil rights investigation into the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday.

Garland said the investigation will determine whether it has used excessive force or engaged in discriminatory policing or retaliatory conduct. The announcement follows similar investigations in Minneapolis and Louisville.

The DOJ “pattern and practice” investigation will assess all types of use of force by the city and officers, including deadly force.

“When we conduct pattern or practice investigations to determine whether the Constitution or federal law has been violated, our aim is to promote transparency and accountability,” said Garland at a press conference Thursday.

The investigation will also seek to determine whether law enforcement engaged in retaliatory activity against people for conduct protected by the First Amendment; whether they engaged in discriminatory policing; and whether there were unlawful seizures of the belongings of individuals experiencing homelessness.

“Our society is straining the policing profession, by turning to law enforcement to address a wide array of social problems,” said Garland. “Too often, we ask law enforcement officers to be the first and last option for addressing issues that should not be handled by our criminal justice system.”

In August, Arizona released body camera video showing the arrest of a man who died in custody after he was held on asphalt for several minutes in 100-degree heat.

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