Skip to main content
Press Release

Justice Department Finds Civil Rights Violations by Phoenix Police Department and City of Phoenix

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department announced today that the Phoenix Police Department (PhxPD) and the City of Phoenix (City) engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

Specifically, the Department finds that:

  • PhxPD uses excessive force, including unjustified deadly force and other types of force.
  • PhxPD and the City unlawfully detain, cite, and arrest people experiencing homelessness and unlawfully dispose of their belongings. This is the first time the Department has found a pattern or practice of conduct that focuses on the rights of people experiencing homelessness.
  • PhxPD discriminates against Black, Hispanic, and Native American people when enforcing the law.
  • PhxPD violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech and expression.
  • PhxPD and the City discriminate against people with behavioral health disabilities when dispatching calls for assistance and responding to people in crisis.

The Department also described serious concerns about PhxPD’s treatment of children. Finally, the Department identified deficiencies in policy, training, supervision, and accountability that contribute to PhxPD and the City’s unlawful conduct.

“The Justice Department has concluded there is reasonable cause to believe that the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives its residents and visitors, including Black, Hispanic, and Native American people, of their rights under the Constitution and federal law,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The release of today’s findings report is an important step toward accountability and transparency, and we are committed to working with the City of Phoenix and Phoenix Police Department on meaningful reform that protects the civil rights and safety of Phoenix residents and strengthens police-community trust.”

“Phoenix residents deserve nothing less than fair, non-discriminatory, and constitutional policing,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “Our comprehensive investigation revealed unlawful and unconstitutional practices in the Phoenix Police Department’s enforcement activities that impact some of Phoenix’s most vulnerable residents, including Black, Hispanic, and Native American people, homeless people, and those experiencing behavioral health crises. The police also used excessive force, delayed necessary medical aid, and infringed on the civil rights of those engaged in First Amendment-protected conduct, including demonstrations and protests. Our findings provide a blueprint and a roadmap that can help transform the police department, restore community trust and strengthen public safety efforts in one of America’s largest cities. We are committed to working collaboratively with the police department, city officials, and the public to institute reform and remedy the violations we identified in our investigation.”

The Department opened this investigation on Aug. 5, 2021. Career attorneys and staff in the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section conducted the investigation. The team conducted numerous onsite tours; interviewed PhxPD officers, supervisors, and command staff; spoke with City officials and employees; accompanied behavioral crisis responders, specialty squads that frequently interacted with unhoused people, and officers on ride-alongs; reviewed thousands of documents; and reviewed hundreds of hours of body-worn camera footage.

As it does in every case, the division met regularly throughout the investigation with City and PhxPD officials to provide feedback on the observations of the Department and its policing experts and on reforms to address the issues observed. Multiple subject-matter experts advised the division on the investigation. Collectively, these experts have decades of experience in assessing police tactics and training, internal investigations, 911 call-taking and dispatch, and statistical analyses. Department attorneys and staff also met with community members, advocates, service providers, and other stakeholders in the Phoenix area.

Consistent with its standard practice in investigations of other cities, the Department provided a detailed briefing on the findings to the City and PhxPD on Tuesday, and proposed that the parties agree in principle to negotiate expeditiously and in good faith to reach a comprehensive court-enforceable settlement with independent monitoring.

The Department conducted this investigation pursuant to 34 U.S.C. Section 12601, which prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law, Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The Department will conduct outreach to members of the Phoenix community to explain the findings and for input on remedies to address the Department’s findings. Individuals may also submit recommendations by email at or by phone at 866-432-0335.

This is one of 11 investigations into law enforcement agencies opened by the Justice Department under Section 12601 since April 2021. Last year, the Department issued Section 12601 findings reports regarding two of those investigations: the Louisville, Kentucky, Metro Police Department and Minneapolis Police Department. The eight other investigations cover the Lexington, Mississippi, Police Department; Louisiana State Police; Memphis, Tennessee, Police Department; Mount Vernon, New York, Police Department; New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Division; Oklahoma City Police Department; Worcester, Massachusetts, Police Department; and Trenton, New Jersey, Police Department.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at

Information specific to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reform Work can be found at

The Justice Department will hold a virtual community meeting at 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET.  Members of the public are encouraged to attend to learn more about the findings. Please join the meeting at

View the findings report here.

View the findings report in Spanish here. 

View the executive summary here.

View the executive summary in Spanish here.

Updated June 18, 2024

Civil Rights
Press Release Number: 24-753