tv Attorney General Holds Press Conference CSPAN August 5, 2021 8:44pm-9:02pm EDT
>> good afternoon, i am joined here today by assistant attorney general for civil rights kristen clarke. today we are announcing that the justice department is opening an investigation into the city of phoenix and the phoenix police department. the investigation will determine whether the phoenix police department engages any pattern or practice that violates the constitution or federal law. this is the third pattern or
practice investigation i've announced as attorney general. each time i've noted that these investigations aim to increase transparency and accountability. this increases public trust and public safety. we know law enforcement's heirs -- law-enforcement shares these goals. we talked with the mayor and police chief jerry williams about the investigation and we are pleased about their pledge of support. they too recognize that we share common aims. our investigation in phoenix will be led by the justice department civil rights division. it is based on an extensive review of publicly available information and will consider several issues. first whether the phoenix police department uses excessive force in violation of the fourth amendment. second whether the phoenix police department engages in discriminatory policing practices that violate the constitution and federal law.
third, whether the department violates the first amendment by retaliating against individuals who are engaged in protected expressive activities. fourth, whether at the city and its police department respond to disabilities in a manner that violates the disabilities act. this includes decisions to criminally detain individuals with behavior mental health issues. and whether they infringe on the rights of the homeless by seizing their belongings. those last two areas of investigative focus speak to that which is broader than the phoenix investigation. our society is straining by turning to law enforcement. too often we asked
law-enforcement officers to be the first and last option for addressing issues that should not be handled by our criminal justice system. this makes police officers jobs more difficult, increases unnecessary confrontations with law enforcement, and hinders public safety. this past week there has been much attention to the pending risk of massive actions which would put millions of tenants at risk of losing shelter. the impact on individuals and families would be devastating and as the cdc has made clear, the impact on public health would likewise be devastating. feeling the spread of covid-19 infections in the affected communities. associate eternity -- associate attorney general benito guida is leading -- benita gupta is leading. on june 1 she sent a letter to
increase the chances that families can stay in their homes. massive actions would also have serious applications for law enforcement. adding to a crisis of homelessness that strains but cannot be solved by the criminal justice system. the cases do not and there. far too often, police officers the first ones called when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis. but it is almost certain that police will be called to respond to someone experiencing a mental health crisis if that person is also without housing. and as we have seen, the risks to everyone involved in such interactions are enormous. these issues must be addressed if we are to ease the burdens that our society places on law enforcement and ensure the safety of our communities. the justice department through grantmaking, technical assistance and training supports
law-enforcement and community-based programs to tackle these challenges. i will note in the podium over to assistant attorney general clarke for more about our investigation. ms. clarke: thank you mr. attorney general. protecting the rule of law means making sure those who enforce our laws abide by them. ensuring law enforcement act in an accountable and law-abiding manner is important. as the attorney general has announced following an extensive review of publicly available information from the phoenix police department, today we are opening a civil investigation into the city of phoenix in the phoenix police department. we have reviewed court files, media reports, citizen
complaints, and we also considered factors we ordinarily -- would not ordinarily weigh in an investigation including the seriousness of the allegations, the number of allegations, the steps of the department may be taking to address the allegations and the history of the department. we found that the evidence here warranted in full investigation but we approach this with no predispositions or conclusions. our pattern or practice in the seasons have been successful at identifying not only whether systemic misconduct is occurring but also it causes. -- its root causes so that those causes can be fixed. as part of the investigation we will meet with officers and command staff as well as members of the broader phoenix community. we will review incident reports, body worn camera footage and
other data and documentation collected by the department. we will also review the department policies, training materials and supervision records as well as documents related to systems of accountability, including how complaints are investigated and how discipline is imposed. as you know, about three months ago, we watched similar investigations into the city of minneapolis and the minneapolis police department, as well as the city of louisville and the louisville police department. in both cities as in phoenix, we have been fortunate to have city officials and police chief. in that time, justice department lawyers have had in person and virtual meetings with close to 1000 community stakeholders. in minneapolis and louisville. hundreds more have submitted messages to the justice
department. department lawyers have participated in over 50 writer logs with officers. we have had four meetings with all command staff and spoken to officers across both individual interviews and briefings. we will take the same approach in phoenix. our career attorneys have decades of experience working on investigations like the one we opened here today. one thing we have learned over the decades is that we must and will work collaboratively with the phoenix community and with the phoenix police department. we conclude that there are no systemic -- if we conclude there are no systemic violations of constitutional or federal statutory rights by the city or phoenix police to permit, we will make that known. if, on the other hand, we conclude there is reasonable cause to believe that such violations are occurring, we will issue a report describing
our findings and then aim to work cooperatively with the city to reach agreement on the best remedies. if an appropriate remedy cannot be achieved through agreement, the attorney general is authorized to bring litigation to secure a remedy. this morning our team had the opportunity to speak with city officials about our investigation. we are pleased that the mayor and the chief have pledged their full support. i will repeat the same message our team conveyed to city officials and leaders this morning. we are committed to following the facts where they lead and doing so in a timely manner so we can expeditiously address any patterns or practice of unlawful conduct that may be identified. we look forward to working together with the city and the fina split -- phoenix police
department toward a shared goal of ensuring constitutional policing and fostering greater cooperation between law enforcement officers and the community members that they serve. >> was there a final straw in phoenix? a.g. garland: i believe that question because it specifically about phoenix. ms. clarke: our investigation looked into a number of issues. what we are planning to roll up our sleeves and looked at closely is whether or not the phoenix police department uses force unconstitutionally, including the force. whether the department engages in discriminatory policing, whether the department engages
in retaliatory conduct by making arrests or using force against individuals engaged in peaceful expressive activities. we are going to look at whether the city and the police department discriminate against people with disabilities in violation of the ada. whether they violate the rights of people experiencing homelessness by unlawfully seizing or disposing of personal property during cleanings or sweeps of encampments, and we are also going to look at the departments policies and training as well as dutch department' has policies and training as well as how they investigate and hold officers accountable for misconduct. failures may contribute to violations of federal law. >> this is also for ms. clark. e. the nature of the investigation
-- i'm wondering if you can speak as to the legal issues you are looking at, the fourth amended and the like, and also whether this is intended to send a message to other entities which routinely seek across the country the belongings -- sees across the country the belongings of the homeless. ms. clarke: the basis of our investigation includes the violent crime control and law enforcement act of 1994. whether those sweeps unlawfully seizing and disposing of the belongings of persons experiencing homelessness may indeed trigger a violation of the fourth amendment. that is another investigation we are launching today. >> mr. attorney general, you mentioned the eviction and the dangers posed by massive action. were you in the justice
department consulted by this administration's reversal on the eviction band, and are you confident you will be able to get it through the supreme court? a.g. garland: as i said, the effects might be devastating book on individuals and the cdc has said on communities because of the risk of spread of covid. the department has vigorously defended the statutory authority of the cdc, to issue an eviction moratorium, and we will continue to do so. as i'm sure you know, there was a filing last night by plaintiffs in that case. we will be making our own filings and is appropriate -- as is appropriate we will respond in our findings to those kind of questions. thank you.
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however, once we arrived in a secure location we were able to get some understanding of that and could only have imagined how are our loved ones were feeling watching it all unfold in real time. certainly it was a great comfort to myself and every other member to be able to communicate one of the communications received that was disturbing was my brother reached out to me to indicate that -- to check to see that we were ok. i indicated to him that i was ok. and then as an aside, he let me now he and his family received a threatening message indicating they knew where my brother, his wife and his three girls lived