PHOENIX (NEWSnet/AP) — A three-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that Phoenix police violated people’s rights, discriminated against certain groups and used excessive force, including unjustified deadly force.

A report released Thursday says the government found a "pattern or practice" of the violations, saying the department discriminates against certain races, as well as people with behavioral health disabilities. The report also found that Phoenix police detain and arrest people who are homeless without reasonable suspicion that they committed a crime and unlawfully dispose of their belongings.

Additionally, the DOJ says officers violated the rights of people engaged in protected speech and expression.

The sweeping investigation found “pervasive failings” that have “disguised and perpetuated” problems for years, according to the report.

The Justice Department said certain laws, including drug and low-level offenses, were enforced more severely by Phoenix officers against Black, Hispanic and Native American people than against whites who engaged in the same conduct.

Investigators found Phoenix police use on “dangerous tactics that lead to force that is unnecessary and unreasonable.”

Phoenix police did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the report.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in a statement that the city received the findings when the Justice Department announced the report, and officials will meet June 25 to discuss the next steps.

Attorney General Merrick Garland called the release of the report “an important step toward accountability and transparency.”

Litigation is also an option for the federal agency if efforts to secure a consent decree — a court-enforced plan for reform — are unsuccessful, said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke.

Similar DOJ investigations, in Albuquerque, Baltimore and elsewhere, have found systemic problems related to excessive force and civil rights violations.

The police force in Phoenix has been criticized in recent years for its treatment of protesters in 2020, deaths of people who were restrained by officers, and a high number of shootings by officers.

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