Justice Dept. to Investigate Phoenix Police
“We heaved a sigh of relief in some respects because the violence that we have been exposing for years has finally been seen nationwide,” said Viri Hernandez, executive director of Poder in Action, a nonprofit that works with people who have lost loved ones to police violence.
After Mr. Floyd was murdered while in custody last year in Minneapolis, activists across the country, including in Phoenix, demanded that police services be reimbursed. As the movement has gained traction in some cities, such as Minneapolis and Los Angeles, Ms Hernandez said Phoenix officials have shown little appetite for slashing the police budget.
“For years we have been saying this, and last year after George Floyd our demands were heard in the streets,” she said, quickly adding: “Funding is not happening here even though the community members have made it a priority. “
In recent years, Arizona and Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, have seen some of the highest rates of police shootings resulting in fatalities. Analyzing data from 2015 to 2020, a study found that Arizona had the fourth highest police murder rate among states, while Maricopa County had the ninth highest rate among the 100 most populous counties in the country. country.
At the same time, homelessness has become a growing concern in Phoenix, as well as other cities, particularly in the western United States, where more and more people are living on the streets in the midst of pandemic and mental health and substance abuse crises. The police response has been the police response to alarming activists and the homeless: a constant stream of morning sweeps of homeless settlements, in which officers seize people’s belongings.
“The police are just playing Whac-a-Mole, pushing them from place to place,” said Elizabeth Venable, founder of the Houseless Leadership Project of the Fund for Empowerment, which advocates for the homeless.
Ms Venable said she was contacted this week by Justice Department officials to participate in the investigation and that she would organize groups of people to meet with federal investigators to discuss the police response to the homeless.
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