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DOJ releases findings from sweeping investigation into the Phoenix Police Department

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

The U.S. Justice Department has spent the past three years investigating the Phoenix Police Department. Yesterday, federal officials released a report detailing their findings. They say there are pervasive failings in the department's policies and accountability measures. Matthew Casey of member station KJZZ reports.

MATTHEW CASEY, BYLINE: The Justice Department's sweeping investigation details a number of instances where it says Phoenix police routinely violated people's civil rights. It laid out examples of excessive force, discriminatory policing, retaliation against protesters and unlawful treatment of vulnerable people. Here's U.S. Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.

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KRISTEN CLARKE: Finally, we found that the police department makes no concession for the particular vulnerabilities of children, instead treating them just the same as adults.

CASEY: For example, two officers threw a 15-year-old Latino boy against a bus stop pole and handcuffed him after he asked to call his mother, according to the report. Clarke said the 126-page document is evidence of long-standing dysfunction at the Phoenix Police Department.

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CLARKE: The problems at their core reflect the lack of effective supervision, training and accountability.

CASEY: Darrell Kriplean is president of Phoenix's largest police union. He opposes a court-approved agreement, known as a consent decree, where the feds spell out reforms overseen by a monitor.

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DARRELL KRIPLEAN: The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association will use every means available to expose the DOJ for the frauds that they are and fight for the men and women who courageously serve the Phoenix Police Department.

CASEY: Phoenix has had reforms in place before, but the Justice Department says some only exist on paper. Jeremy Helfgot serves on several police boards as a civilian. He says if city or police leaders made real changes, the feds would not have come to town.

JEREMY HELFGOT: What the report does do is offer a pretty scathing indictment of a number of factors that play into the Phoenix Police Department.

CASEY: The report says Phoenix police shot and killed people at one of the highest rates in the country. It also found that officers enforce certain laws like drug offenses more severely against Black, Hispanic and Native American people. Mayor Kate Gallego says the city council will meet in secret later this month to discuss the findings.

For NPR News, I'm Matthew Casey in Phoenix.

(SOUNDBITE OF NICHOLAS BRITELL'S "AGAPE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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