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Phoenix May Have To Do Its Own Criminal Investigation Of Police

Phoenix continues to search for an outside law enforcement agency to conduct a criminal investigation of police officers in connection with bogus gang charges filed against protesters.

The city manager said at a City Council meeting Tuesday that Phoenix may have to investigate its own police.

An independent criminal investigation was recommended by an outside firm that found Phoenix police worked backchannels with prosecutors to falsely charge protesters.

City Manager Ed Zuercher notified the council of five law enforcement agencies he’s so far asked to do the probe. Council member Laura Pastor asked Zuercher what happens if conflict of interest means no Arizona agency can do it. 

“We would have to find a way inside the city of Phoenix to do the criminal investigation in a way that minimized or eliminated any conflict of interest,” he said.

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Department of Public Safety and the Yavapai and Coconino County attorney's offices have all declined to do the probe, or said they’re unable to.

The city of Tucson is considering Zuercher’s request for its police department to step in.

The independent investigation into a Phoenix police memento with a neo-Nazi phrase was also formally presented to the Phoenix City Council on Tuesday.

The souvenir, called a challenge coin, also mocks a protester being shot in the groin with a pepper ball after a 2017 rally by former President Donald Trump.

Mayor Kate Gallego called on Chief Jeri Williams to have Phoenix police undergo training with the Anti-Defamation League.   

“I am deeply troubled by an organizational culture that would allow this speech to emerge,” Gallego said.

Gallego also asked Williams to have every Phoenix officer start the training within four months.

Marc Krell, associate regional director of ADL Arizona, would like to provide this statement: “We at ADL are looking forward to learning the results of the DOJ investigation once it is completed. In order to respect the process, we do not think it would be appropriate to intervene with our ADL Law Enforcement education at this time. That said, we stand ready to assist the department with any post-investigation reforms and professional development and are eager to learn if and how ADL can support these.”

The independent investigation found that Phoenix police did not tie the language on the coin to hate speech.

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.