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Interim Phoenix PD chief discusses continuing DOJ investigation

Sullivan said the department had provided 80,000 documents, 20,000 videos, 200 hours of ridealongs, and 100 interviews for the investigation.

PHOENIX — Two years into the Department of Justice’s investigation into the Phoenix Police Department, there’s no clear timeline of when it could wrap up.

So far, interim Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan said the department has provided 80,000 documents, 20,000 videos, 200 hours of ridealongs, and 100 interviews for the investigation.

The DOJ is investigating Phoenix police’s use of force, retaliatory activity against protestors and officer’s treatment of the homeless population, among other issues.

RELATED: Phoenix police proposes making several changes to use-of-force policy

A DOJ spokesperson told 12News that the investigation remains ongoing and did not provide a timeline for when findings could be released.

“I don’t want to project what I would expect from the DOJ,” Sullivan said. “But I can tell you they’ve released two findings reports recently, and if you read those reports, they read very similar, you know, so I would expect something similar but in the areas they have identified as focus areas through their investigation. So I look forward to seeing what those are.”

This year, the DOJ released findings of roughly two-year-long investigations into police departments in Minneapolis and Louisville. Their findings recommended both cities improve their use of force training, including de-escalation techniques.

The reports also recommend policies and training surrounding protests are improved, among other things.

Sullivan said de-escalation training is already being implemented and Phoenix’s use of force policy is being updated. Those changes, Sullivan said weren’t influenced by the investigation but by his experience. 

“We’re getting to the point to develop training for that policy and then train all of our members in that policy,” Sullivan said. “I think that’s something that’s very, very important – make sure that officers know and understand the policies that we put out.”

Still, community members say the changes aren’t enough.

“They were very easy changes to make,” Jared Keenan, legal director for the ACLU of Arizona, said. “The use of force policy that directly now informs officers that they shouldn’t be doing a lot of the things that they had done for years, like should have happened years ago.”

Sullivan took over the Phoenix Police Department in 2022 following former Chief Jeri William’s retirement.

RELATED: Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams announces retirement

“I would say it’s not the easy change, you know. We’re making this change and it’s taken over a year – or very close to a year by the time it gets implemented – when you do it the correct way, when you take input from the community, when you take input from members and when you engage with folks outside the department, like the Department of Justice,” Sullivan said. “So, you know, I don’t want to speak to what happened prior to, but I can tell you, we’re going to be focused on reform and crime fighting.”

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