DOJ Finds Pattern of Excessive Force and Discrimination in Phoenix Police Department’s Actions


The Phoenix Police Department has been accused of unjustified deadly force, discrimination against Black, Hispanic, and Native American civilians, and targeting homeless people, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) report detailing civil rights violations.

The report claims that the City of Phoenix and its police department unfairly target homeless individuals, retaliate against critics, and use disproportionate force against people with behavioral health disabilities.

In the years preceding the investigation, Phoenix police had one of the highest rates of shootings in the country. While some city officials blamed a “more violent population,” the DOJ report indicates many of these shootings were unconstitutional.

The DOJ highlighted the use of excessive deadly force and targeting of homeless individuals by the police. The report accuses the City of Phoenix and its police department of illegally detaining, citing, arresting homeless people, and unlawfully disposing of their belongings.

Officers allegedly used indiscriminate force against protesters, made false allegations against protest leaders, and retaliated against police critics.

The DOJ also noted troubling actions toward children and people with disabilities, criticizing the department’s reliance on “dangerous,” “unnecessary,” and “unreasonable” tactics. The report states that the department teaches officers that all force, even deadly force, is de-escalation, and assumes people with disabilities are dangerous, rarely adjusting their approach.

“Our investigation revealed unlawful practices in the Phoenix Police Department that impact some of Phoenix’s most vulnerable residents, including Black, Hispanic, and Native American people, homeless people, and those experiencing behavioral health crises,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. She added that police used excessive force, delayed medical aid, and violated the civil rights of those engaged in First Amendment-protected activities like protests.

This investigation is one of eleven similar probes into police departments across the country since 2021.

The DOJ plans to engage with Phoenix community members to discuss their findings and potential solutions. Community members can submit recommendations via email at [email protected] or by phone at 866-432-0335.

Katie Smith
Katie Smith
Digital Reporter. Previously, Katie wrote about crime and court for the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. She’s also reported on similar beats for the Daily Chronicle and the Daily Herald in the Chicago suburbs. Katie earned her journalism degree from Eastern Illinois University, where she also studied English and photojournalism.

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