Remarks as Delivered
Thank you, Mr. Attorney General.
Protecting the rule of law demands that those who enforce our laws also abide by them.
Ensuring that law enforcement acts in a lawful and accountable manner is a priority for the Civil Rights Division.
As the Attorney General has just announced, following an extensive review of publicly available information regarding the Phoenix Police Department, today we are opening a civil pattern or practice investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department.
We have reviewed court files, media reports, citizen complaints, and we also considered factors that we ordinarily weigh in determining whether to open an investigation, including the nature and seriousness of the allegations; the number of allegations; the steps that a department may be taking to address the allegations; and the history of the department. We found that the evidence here warrants a full investigation, but we approach this process with no predispositions or pre-drawn conclusions.
Our pattern or practice investigations have been successful at identifying not only whether systemic misconduct is occurring, but also its root causes – so that those root causes can ultimately be fixed.
As part of our investigation in Phoenix, we will meet with officers and command staff as well as members of the broader Phoenix community. We will review incident reports, body worn camera footage, and other data and documentation collected by the department. We will also review the department’s policies, training materials, and supervision records, as well as documents related to systems of accountability, including how complaints are investigated and how discipline is imposed.
As you know, about three months ago we launched similar investigations into the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department as well as the City of Louisville and the Louisville Police Department. In both cities, as in Phoenix, we’ve been fortunate to have the support of city officials and police chiefs.
In that short time, Justice Department lawyers have had in-person and virtual meetings with close to one thousand community stakeholders in Minneapolis and Louisville. Hundreds more have submitted messages to the Justice Department.
Department lawyers have participated in over fifty ride-alongs with officers. We have had four meetings with full command staff and spoken to officers across both individual interviews and roll-call briefings.
We will take the same approach in Phoenix. Our career attorneys have decades of experience working on investigations like the one we open here today. One thing we have learned over the decades is that we must and will work collaboratively with the Phoenix community and with the Phoenix Police Department.
If we conclude that there are no systemic violations of constitutional or federal statutory rights by the City or Phoenix Police Department, we will make that known. If, on the other hand, we conclude that there is reasonable cause to believe that such violations are occurring, we will issue a report describing our findings and then aim to work cooperatively with the City to reach agreement on the best remedies. If an appropriate remedy cannot be achieved through agreement, the Attorney General is authorized to bring litigation to secure an appropriate injunctive remedy.
This morning, our team had the opportunity to speak with City officials about our investigation. We are pleased that Mayor Gallego and Chief Williams have pledged their full support. I will repeat the same message our team conveyed to city officials and city leaders this morning: we’re committed to following the facts where they lead, and doing so in a timely manner so that we can expeditiously address any pattern or practice of unlawful conduct that may be identified.
We look forward to working together with the City and the Phoenix Police Department toward the shared goals of ensuring constitutional policing and fostering greater cooperation between law enforcement officers and the community members that they serve.