This past Thursday, Merrick B. Garland, the Attorney General, and Kristen Clarke, the Assistant Attorney General, for the civil rights division stated that the Justice Department has officially started up a “pattern or practice investigation” aimed at the City of Phoenix and its police force.
This decision follows just two days in the wake of the Phoenix Police Department releasing a piece of edited bodycam footage of an officer that fatally shot a 31-year-old man who was armed with a knife back in July. The officials did not make any reference, however, to that specific incident at the time of the announcement of the new probe.
As part of these pattern-or-practice investigations, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ determines whether or not a local law enforcement agency has a pattern of persistent misconduct that inherently violates federal law or the constitution. Additionally, the seeks to explore any possible systemic downfalls that may enable any such practices, and investigators then interview the surrounding community members and many other criminal justice stakeholders to learn about their experiences with the department under investigation.
Attorney General Merrick Garland: "Today we are announcing that the Justice Department is opening an investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department." pic.twitter.com/L7U45f4Ox5
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 5, 2021
As stated by the DOJ, the new investigation will partly assess the use of force by the police department of Phoenix, seek to determine whether or not its enforcement officials engage in retaliatory conduct or promote discriminatory policing, and determine if the agency has unlawfully taken or disposed of the items or belongings of homeless people.
“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,” stated Garland. “This increases public trust, which in turn increases public safety.”
As stated by Garland, the officials from the DOJ were “pleased” by the “pledge of support” from Kate Gallego, the Mayor of Phoenix, and Jeri Williams, the current Police Chief.
As reported by the Associated Press, the probe “is the third sweeping civil investigation into a law enforcement agency brought by the Justice Department in the Biden administration and comes as the department has worked to shift its priorities on policing and civil rights.” Old Uncle Joe’s DOJ has announced, previously, pattern or practice investigations into the police forces in both Minneapolis and Louisville.
“One of the highest priorities of the Civil Rights Division is to ensure that every person in this country benefits from policing that is lawful, effective, transparent, and free from discrimination,” stated Assistant Attorney General Clarke. “Police officers across the country must use their authority in a manner that adheres to the Constitution, complies with federal civil rights laws and respects human dignity.”