Phoenix, AZ –The City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department are continuing to collaborate with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) during its ongoing “Pattern or Practice” investigation into Phoenix PD. Over the course of the now 24-month investigation, city and police leaders have provided the DOJ with documents, videos, interviews, ride-a-longs, and access to training sessions with the department.
The investigation has come with challenges, as it took several months to negotiate a method for sharing sensitive law enforcement information which complied with FBI standards. The City of Phoenix follows FBI rules for Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS), which regulate the sharing of sensitive information like fingerprints, documents, and other evidence belonging to those involved in the criminal justice process. The DOJ initially declined several offered solutions, however both parties came to an agreement in late 2021.
Since resolving the issue, the City of Phoenix has provided more than 20,000 Body Worn Camera videos and 80,000 requested documents to DOJ investigators.
During the seventh, and most recent in-person site visit from April 11–14, 2023, DOJ investigators interviewed staff members on the Community Assistance Program (CAP) and Field Training Officer (FTO) program. Additionally, the DOJ took part in a learning session to better understand the City of Phoenix’s public records request process. During the four-day site visit in April, the DOJ also spent significant time at the Phoenix Regional Police Academy where they observed Small Team Tactics and High-Risk Vehicle Stop training.
During previous site visits to Phoenix in 2022, representatives participated in more than 200 hours of ride-alongs while touring and observing multiple precincts across the city. The DOJ participated in other noteworthy exercises to include the shadowing of School Resource Officers (SRO), Community Action Officers (CAO), and attending supervisor leadership training and use of force training. In between site visits, the City of Phoenix routinely met virtually with DOJ attorneys to provide clarification on documents shared and technology used to capture data.
The City of Phoenix welcomes the next steps in this process and continues open dialogue with DOJ leadership. For detailed information on the investigation including an updated timeline, please visit: phoenix.gov/police/doj
BACKGROUND ON INVESTIGATION
On August 5th, 2021, the United States Department of Justice announced a Civil Pattern or Practice investigation into the Phoenix Police Department. This is the 71st investigation of its kind since the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (H.R. 3355) was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. The law provides The Department of Justice authority to initiate and conduct Pattern or Practice (PoP) civil investigations of municipal, county, and state-based law enforcement organizations. As outlined in the DOJ’s initial announcement and notice to the city of Phoenix, this investigation encompasses five focus areas which are as follows:
- Assess all types of force, including deadly force.
- Whether PPD engages in retaliatory activity against people for conduct protected by the first Amendment.
- Whether PPD engages in discriminatory policing.
- Whether PPD unlawfully seizes or disposes of the belongings of individuals experiencing homelessness.
- Assess City and Police systems and practices for responding to people with disabilities.
PROCESS MOVING FORWARD
According to the DOJ website, the division will issue a public report detailing the findings at the conclusion of its investigation. If investigators do not find systemic violations of constitutional or federal statutory rights by the Phoenix Police Department, then the investigation will be closed.
If the investigation does reveal what the DOJ considers to be patterns or practices of misconduct, it will articulate what those are, and create Recommended Remedial Measures (RRM) to correct them. These measures usually take the form of a negotiated, and then court ordered agreement overseen by an independent monitor, according to the Department of Justice Website.
If the DOJ and law enforcement entity being investigated are unable to negotiate an agreement, the DOJ can bring a lawsuit in attempt to secure their recommendations, according to U.S. law.