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The unit that handles crimes against police, firefighters is being shut down

Maricopa County’s top prosecutor says there isn’t enough staff for a unit of her office created to handle crimes against police, firefighters and paramedics.

A retired judge tapped to investigate bogus gang charges against protesters had recommended all personnel in the First Responder Bureau be rotated out.

County Attorney Allister Adel cited hiring difficulties in an email saying the work done by the bureau created to handle crimes against first responders will be absorbed by another division. A date for this change to take effect has not been chosen.

Bureau staff worked with Phoenix police on cases against protesters falsely accused of being in a gang. This closeness, wrote the retired judge who investigated what happened, inclined prosecutors to believe the police narrative without looking at other evidence such as body camera footage.

Adel’s email announcing the change did not mention the bogus charges scandal first reported by ABC15.

Bruce Franks Jr., electoral justice director with Mass Liberation AZ, says Mass Liberation AZ's goal was to disband the bureau. 

“We knew what this unit was. It’s the unit that politically persecuted us and the impotence of this whole unit was to target those who really speak up against law enforcement and the injustice going on,” said Franks Jr.  

Franks Jr. says his the group believes public pressure forced the disbanding decision. 

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.