President Joe Biden’s Department of Justice may have dropped charges against numerous rioters following last year’s summer of chaos, but that doesn’t mean it’s falling asleep on the job.
On the contrary, the DOJ has a new target: police in Phoenix, Arizona, who are now under investigation for how they treat citizens, including the homeless.
“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,” Kristen Clarke, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, said during a media briefing Thursday, according to CNN.
“We found that the evidence here warrants a full investigation, but we approach this process with no predispositions or pre-drawn conclusions.”
In a news release, the department announced the “investigation will assess all types of use of force by PhxPD officers, including deadly force.
“The investigation will also seek to determine whether PhxPD engages in retaliatory activity against people for conduct protected by the First Amendment; whether PhxPD engages in discriminatory policing; and whether PhxPD unlawfully seizes or disposes of the belongings of individuals experiencing homelessness.”
BREAKING: DOJ launches Civil Rights investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department pic.twitter.com/cNC5TTozzw
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) August 5, 2021
“When we conduct pattern or practice investigations to determine whether the Constitution or federal law has been violated, our aim is to promote transparency and accountability,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in the statement.
“This increases public trust, which in turn increases public safety. We know that law enforcement shares these goals.”
It’s worth noting, too, that Phoenix’s Democratic mayor, Kate Gallego, says she “welcome[s] the U.S. Department of Justice review of the Phoenix Police Department.
“Comprehensive reform of policing in the City of Phoenix has been my priority since the first day I took office,” she said in a statement. “The recommendations that will result from this review will assist us in our ongoing efforts to become an even safer, stronger, more equitable city.”
— Mayor Kate Gallego (@MayorGallego) August 5, 2021
While Gallego isn’t hard left on police reform, she hasn’t been an ally to the police, either. Most notably, she backed a controversial civilian oversight office that was created by a narrow 5-4 vote of the Phoenix City Council in May; according to KTVK-TV, opponents of the board said it would be an activist political body designed to undermine law enforcement.
“It sounds great, and if it was a true accountability office, I would support it, but it’s not,” Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio said.
“It’s literally designed to attack the police, part of the defund the police movement. It allows these individuals, these anti-police groups to infiltrate these groups. The way it’s designed, there’s going to be an amendment that says that they are able to investigate, these civilians.”
The head of the Phoenix police officers union was also strongly opposed to the measure.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Phoenix City Council chose to ignore the concerns of local law enforcement and establish a new political entity that will continue the divisive narrative against our men and women in uniform,” Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Britt London said in a statement.
“Our existing mechanisms provide civilian oversight with the opportunity to question officers in Discipline Review Boards and Use of Force Boards. Let me be abundantly clear: we support transparency and accountability, and we’ve worked diligently with community leaders on real solutions. Yet, this effort to create the Office of Accountability and Transparency is led by activist organizations that seek to eliminate our police department and implement their own progressive agenda.”
All of which is to say that the mayor who helped create this body is now essentially inviting Joe Biden’s Department of Justice into her city to investigate her police department. To say the outcome feels a bit like a fait accompli is wholly redundant.
Keep in mind this is a Department of Justice that’s much more forgiving when it comes to those allegedly attacking law enforcement than toward law enforcement itself.
In March, KGW-TV in Portland, Oregon found that 31 of the 90 cases brought against individuals there had been dismissed by the Department of Justice, even though the DOJ had previously warned that “those who commit violence in the name of protest, will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time.”
This included four people charged with assaulting a federal officer, a felony. At least 11 of the cases were dropped by the DOJ after Joe Biden’s inauguration or on Inauguration Day.
“Each case was analyzed for the evidence that we had at the time,” said Billy Williams, a former federal prosecutor for the District of Oregon. “Careful decisions were made on whether or not someone should be charged based on the evidence.”
“Everything is case-specific when you go about these cases being processed through the system,” he added.
The DOJ’s priorities aren’t necessarily America’s. In July, a Rasmussen poll found 66 percent of likely voters wanted last year’s Black Lives Matter protests probed. (That’s a higher percentage than the share of the populace who supports House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Capitol incursion probe, according to a separate poll.)
Furthermore, radical police “reform” has become a radioactive issue politically in the face of rising crime rates — so much so that White House press secretary Jen Psaki actually tried to tie the rallying cry “defund the police” to the Republicans when questioned by reporters.
Actions speak louder than media briefings, however. Garland’s Thursday announcement is another warning shot to police across the country: Under the Biden administration, expect the DOJ to act as the enforcement arm of the party’s activist wing.
Keep in mind that Garland, shortly after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the George Floyd case, announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department to see, in part, whether it “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.”
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