The U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation to determine whether the city of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department have violated civil rights laws, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced, reports the Huffington Post.
As part of the probe ― known as a pattern-or-practice investigation ― investigators will look at the types of force used by Phoenix police officers, as well as whether the department has violated the rights of citizens.
The probe includes determining if officers use excessive force, engage in retaliatory behavior against people expressing their First Amendment rights, or unlawfully seize the belongings of the homeless. It will also assess practices for responding to people with disabilities.
“The investigation will include a comprehensive review of PhxPD policies, training, supervision and force investigations, as well as PhxPD’s systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition and discipline,” the Justice Department said in a statement.
The Justice Department also announced it will reach out to community groups and members of the public to hear about their experiences with the Phoenix Police Department.
Phoenix police must now track every time they point guns at people. The change came after a 2019 incident in which an officer was caught on video pointing his gun at a Black family after the couple’s 4-year-old daughter walked out of a store with a doll that hadn’t been paid for.
“I’m gonna put a cap right in your fucking head,” the officer could be heard saying on the video.
The city of Phoenix later paid the family $475,000 in a settlement.
A report also found that Phoenix police were involved in a record-breaking 44 shootings in 2018.