In early November the US Department of Justice (DOJ) held secret closed-door meetings with the Phoenix Police Chief and the City Manager to discuss the DOJ’s pattern-or-practice investigation of the Phoenix Police Department. These two city officials failed to disclose to the City Council or the community that these meetings occurred, and they refused to reveal what was discussed.
These officials have betrayed the City of Phoenix, and they should resign immediately.
DOJ has threatened to file a civil lawsuit against Phoenix for a pattern-or-practice of unconstitutional policing. DOJ is the City’s adversary, and no City officials should be meeting with DOJ attorneys. The City is the defendant and the DOJ is the plaintiff. No ethical city attorney would allow their clients to meet in secret with plaintiff’s attorneys, but that is what happened here. It appears that some city officials are working behind the scenes with DOJ to bring in a consent decree that will ruin the Phoenix Police Department and harm public safety.
Why would any city official work with plaintiffs who are accusing the city of misconduct? Why would these officials try to force the city into an expensive and long lasting consent decree? Do these officials have something to gain from a consent decree? Do they have their own personal, financial or political motives?
The DOJ investigation has lasted more than two years, and the Phoenix Police Department created a website to keep the community updated on the progress of the investigation.
The last update on the website was from July 17, 2023. The Police Department failed to disclose the meetings that DOJ had with the Police Chief and City Manager.
The Phoenix City Council and the community have a right to know what went on during these closed-door meetings with the DOJ and whether these officials made any commitments or promises to DOJ.
These meetings are right out of the DOJ’s playbook.
DOJ will attempt to intimidate city officials into agreeing to a consent decree before DOJ releases its pattern-or-practice findings. This is what happened in Louisville and Minneapolis. DOJ is fearful of transparency, and they run from accountability.
It is time for the City Council and the community to speak up before city officials hand over their police department to federal overseers.
Bob Scales is a former King County deputy prosecutor and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Western District of Washington. He is the CEO of Police Strategies.