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DOJ launches probe into Phoenix police use of excessive force

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Police block protesters during a visit by US, President Donald Trump to the Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona, US June 23, 2020. (Reuters photo)

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is launching a broad civil-rights investigation of the Phoenix Police Department over allegations of excessive use of force and homeless abuse.

The investigation began Thursday after reports showed the department unlawfully had used deadly force, engaged in discriminatory policing, retaliated against peaceful protesters and violated the rights of homeless people, according to officials.

The investigation announced by Attorney General Merrick Garland will also examine the city of Phoenix, marking the latest such inquiry involving a major American city.

The probe will look into unlawful seizes or disposes of the belongings of homeless individuals.

"The investigation will assess the city and Phoenix's Police Department's systems and practices for responding to people with disabilities. The investigation will include a comprehensive review of PhxPD policies, training, supervision, and force investigations, as well as PhxPD's systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline," the Department of Justice said in a news release.

This comes amid assertions by racial justice activists that Phoenix police have carried unlawful surveillance, arrests and malicious prosecutions of protesters.

Documents showed in March that Phoenix police monitored protest leaders for hours during a peaceful October demonstration, describing the activists "targets" while surveilling them with drones, surveillance cameras, and vehicles.

In February, a report by ABC15 showed an investigation highlighting officials creating a “fictional gang” to punish Phoenix protesters.

In addition, after Phoenix police shot a protester in the groin, a special team of the department’s officers celebrated the shot with commemorative coins to sell and share.

The Phoenix Police Department has long been the subject of internal and external investigations and criticism for years.

Last month, Phoenix police shot and killed a man who pointed an object at them which turned out to be a water gun, according to authorities.

In recent years, US police have been under harsh criticism over use of excessive force in the aftermath of a series of deadly occurrences in different cities across the country, with nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis in June 2020.

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