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Report uncovering biased policing in Phoenix prompts gathering in support of the victims


PHOENIX (AP) — Supporters of over two dozen alleged victims of civil rights violations at the hands of Phoenix police plan to speak out Friday, a day after the release of a scathing U.S. Justice Department report outlining a pattern of excessive force and racial discrimination.

Jarrett Maupin, a Phoenix activist known for working with victims alleging police brutality, will hold the afternoon gathering in the city’s downtown.

The sweeping civil rights investigation found “overwhelming statistical evidence” that Phoenix police discriminate against Black, Hispanic and Native American people, as well as unlawfully detain homeless people and use excessive force. The report says investigators found stark contrasts in how officers enforce certain — especially low-level — crimes depending on a person’s race and that officers tended to fire their weapons unnecessarily or “unreasonably delay” aid to those they injured.

Ben Crump, the Florida-based attorney who has become the voice for Black people killed at the hands of police and vigilantes, represents the family of Akeem Terrell, a man who died in a jail in Phoenix in 2021. He said he hopes the report’s recommendations will mean improving the policing culture.

“While we are still fighting for justice for Akeem, we continue to also fight for those who are still here with us. There shouldn’t be another Akeem Terrell,” Crump said in a statement. “It is critical that police departments follow guidance like that of the DOJ to better protect our communities.”

The report does not mention whether the federal government is pursuing a court-enforced reform plan known as a consent decree, but a Justice Department official told reporters that in similar cases that method has been used to carry out reforms. Litigation is an option if the Department is unable to obtain a consent decree.

Interim Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan said in a statement that the force needs time to thoroughly review the findings, and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement that city officials would meet June 25 to get legal advice and discuss next steps.

Meanwhile, Darrell Kriplean, president of a local police union, called the Justice Department investigation a “farce” and said it is “only interested in removing control of local police from the communities.”

Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the country. Similar DOJ investigations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Baltimore and elsewhere have found systemic problems related to excessive force and civil rights violations, some resulting in costly consent decrees that have lasted years.

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