Maricopa County attorney warns about effects of DOJ police oversight

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell on Wednesday warned that prosecuting criminals from Phoenix could become more difficult in the future if the U.S. Justice Department takes steps to oversee the Phoenix Police Department. Phoenix police are the target of a civil rights investigation by the DOJ, which is investigating whether officers use excessive force, retaliate against protesters and respect the rights of the homeless and mentally ill.

City officials said the investigation by the DOJ is still ongoing and there is no firm date of its conclusion. Any announcement following the investigation would indicate whether investigators believe civil rights violations occurred, and what the DOJ intends to do to fix the problems. Phoenix city and police leaders would need to sign off on any remedy. It’s called a consent decree. It’s an agreement that usually includes the DOJ assigning a monitor to the department to ensure changes are being made. “What I learned working behind the scenes with DOJ gave me a lot of concern,” said Bob Scales, who worked in the city attorney’s office in Seattle when that city went through a similar process.

Scales says the result was expensive, is ongoing and he believes resulted in less effective policing. “It cost over $200 million and it’s taken 11 years, and they’re still not out of the consent decree,” said Scales.

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