US to probe Phoenix police over abuse, force allegations

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FILE – In this April 26, 2021 file photo, Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington. President Joe Biden is nominating eight new leaders for U.S. attorney positions across the country, including in the office overseeing the prosecutions of hundreds of defendants charged in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection. The nominees announced Monday by the White House come as the Justice Department continues to round out its leadership team under Attorney General Merrick Garland, who traveled to Chicago last week to announce an initiative to crack down on violent crime and gun trafficking. (Mandel Ngan/Pool via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department is launching a widespread probe into the police force in Phoenix to examine whether officers have been using excessive force and abusing people experiencing homelessness.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department on Thursday. The probe will also examine whether police have engaged in discriminatory policing practices and will work to determine if officers have retaliated against people engaged in protected First Amendment activity, he said.

The new investigation is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and is generally is a sweeping review of the entire police department.

Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said investigators will review body camera video, along with training materials and other records. She said the Justice Department spoke with Phoenix city officials and they had expressed support for the probe.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department announced it was opening similar investigation into police forces in Minneapolis, after the death of George Floyd, and in Louisville, Kentucky, after the death of Breonna Taylor.

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