A two-and-a-half-year investigation weighs on the minds of Phoenix’s homeless and advocates as they push for change and accountability.
A DOJ investigation of police department procedures that has lasted for almost 2.5 years has cast a lengthy shadow on Phoenix’s homeless population. The main point of contention is how the police treat homeless people, which prompted the ACLU of Arizona to file a lawsuit.
Plaintiffs claim that Phoenix PD’s homeless camp sweeps escalated into raids, leading to the destruction of personal belongings—a harsh reality that echoes the lived experiences of those like Frank Urban, one of the plaintiffs in Fund for Empowerment v. the city of Phoenix. “People are just treated really bad if you’re homeless and that’s putting it lightly,” Urban laments, sharing his own experiences of being criminally cited for standing on a sidewalk during his struggle with homelessness.
As the DOJ investigation nears its conclusion, Jared Keenan, the ACLU Arizona legal director, remains vigilant, anticipating that the findings will affirm their initial suspicions. Meanwhile, an injunction is in place, prohibiting camping and sleeping bans against unsheltered individuals across Phoenix, providing a glimmer of hope for the city’s homeless residents.
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However, Phoenix PD’s contentious relationship with the homeless community doesn’t end with the lawsuit. The DOJ investigation also scrutinizes the handling of those experiencing homelessness, adding an extra layer of importance to the impending release of the probe’s findings. The city of Phoenix has already taken steps to address the concerns, implementing new protocols for identifying and storing unattended property.
With the clock ticking, all parties involved keep their eyes on the prize: securing justice, fostering understanding, and creating a safer, more inclusive environment for Phoenix’s homeless population. The upcoming days will prove decisive in shaping the future of Phoenix PD’s relationship with the city’s most vulnerable residents.