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Maricopa County Attorney Releases Review Of Prosecutor's Role In Bogus Gang Case

Thursday’s local news cycle was dominated by the Phoenix city manager having asked the Arizona attorney general to do a criminal investigation of Phoenix police officers.

Maricopa County’s top prosecutor released the review of her office’s role in the bogus indictments of protesters as street gang members late Thursday evening as well.

Among the document and hundreds of pages of exhibits came bullet points of reforms done and planned by Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel.

But the records deal with a key question in the federal investigation of Phoenix police. Did law enforcement retaliate against people for actions protected by the First Amendment?

“What the Department of Justice is seeing is a longtime cultural problem within not only the Phoenix Police Department, but the County Attorney’s Office related to the exercise of power over people’s lives,” said civil rights lawyers Bob McWhirter, who lost in the Democratic primary to run against Adel for the job of top prosecutor. 

City police, university cops and prosecutors in Missoula, Montana, were also once the subjects of the same category of Civil Rights probe underway against Phoenix police.

McWhirter said some reforms Adel has made and plans to do are good. But they’re only a first step toward a necessary reorganization. 

“She put the story in the news cycle where it wouldn’t be seen. She’s making a statement with a half-apology. This is a serious lack of management in the office,” he said.

Adel has promised in the future to make sure her leadership team knows about unprecedented prosecutions before charges are filed.

She faces a potential lawsuit by a subordinate who claims she knew of the plan to charge protesters as gang members.  

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.