Phoenix Police Used Excessive Force and Violated Civil Rights, Justice Department Reports

The Phoenix Police Department engaged in a pattern of misconduct that violated the civil rights of the city’s residents, including the use of unjustified deadly force, according to a scathing report from the US Justice Department.

The federal agency’s detailed report highlighted cases of excessive force and discrimination against Black, Hispanic, and Native American residents. Officers were also accused of unlawfully detaining, ticketing, and arresting homeless individuals.

“This behavior includes improper use of Tasers, projectiles, leg restraints, police dogs, and even deadly force, including guns and neck restraints,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke. “Officers also routinely delay medical aid and employ excessive force on wounded people.”

Key Findings in the Report:

  • Unjustified Deadly Force: Officers shot a man throwing rocks at their vehicle four times, resulting in his death. They also shot a woman who appeared suicidal ten times and delayed medical aid, leading to her death.
  • Excessive Use of Force: Officers shot a man, then fired multiple rounds with a “less-lethal projectile launcher” and sent a police dog to drag him. They did not render aid for more than nine minutes.
  • Delayed Medical Aid: After shooting an armed man, officers continued to shoot him with stunbag rounds and delayed CPR for 15 minutes. He was pronounced dead upon approach.
  • Discrimination Against the Homeless: Between 2016-22, 37% of Phoenix police arrests involved homeless individuals. Officers unlawfully detained, cited, and arrested homeless people and disposed of their belongings.

Reactions to the Report

The Phoenix Police Department stated they are analyzing the report and committed to “continuous improvement by enhancing policy, accountability, and training.” However, Lou Manganiello, president of the Phoenix Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 2, dismissed the report as “full of half-truths, unsubstantiated accusations, and haphazard, illogical conclusions.”

Implications and Future Actions

The Justice Department report emphasizes the need for better supervision, training, and accountability within the Phoenix Police Department. Clarke stated that the Justice Department would work with Phoenix officials to find a “mutually acceptable” path forward. “We are taking all allegations seriously and are planning to review this lengthy report with an open mind,” said city manager Jeff Barton.

The findings are part of a broader effort by the Justice Department, which has launched 11 investigations into law enforcement agencies across the country since 2021. Previous investigations in Louisville, Kentucky, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, found similar patterns of civil rights violations and excessive force.

As the Phoenix Police Department faces scrutiny, the report serves as a critical call for reform and accountability in law enforcement practices to protect the civil rights of all residents.