PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The U.S. Department of Justice has begun reaching out to community members as part of its investigation into the Phoenix Police Department. The federal agency is taking a closer look at the police department's practices to see if Phoenix police have violated civil rights.
One of the people who has heard from the DOJ is Mussallina Muhaymin, whose brother died in police custody. “It's like finally there's someone else looking into this,” says Muhaymin.
Body-camera footage from the 2017 incident showed Phoenix Police officers pinning Muhammad Muhaymin to the ground after the 43-year-old tried to enter a community center with his service dog. Muhammad is seen vomiting, then officers uncuff him to perform CPR, but Muhammad later died at the hospital.
"No officer has been held accountable. No criminal charges have been found, and in fact, they still work for the Phoenix Police Department,” says Mussallina Muhaymin.
The U.S. Department of Justice has announced a civil rights investigation into the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix Police Department.
Mussallina Muhaymin is suing the Phoenix Police Department. She believes officers used excessive force on her brother, who, she says, had a disability because of his mental illness and was living on the streets. "We are victimized as families over and over again especially seeing this continue to happen,” says Mussallina Muhaymin.
The DOJ probe will look at how the Phoenix Police Department uses force and how officers treat people experiencing homelessness, mental illness or have disabilities. The investigation will also explore whether the agency has discriminatory practices or retaliates against peaceful protestors.
"None of us want to lead an agency or work for an agency where there are people there that routinely tarnish the reputation,” says retired DPS Director Frank Milstead.
Milstead, who also served with Phoenix Police earlier in his career, suggests the agency embrace the investigation and the findings, whatever they may be. "Be transparent, be open, be comfortable with the fact of whatever the truth is, it needs to come out,” says Milstead.
Law enforcement experts like Milstead have expressed concerns about officer morale. Milstead encourages city officials and community members to support officers through this process. "You have to know that when you're out there making split-second decisions, that leadership and really the political leaders have your back,” says Milstead.
Mussallina Muhaymin describes the loss of her brother as a wound that never heals. She says she will continue to fight for justice and hopes the federal investigation will lead to progress. "I would like to see significant change,” says Mussallina Muhaymin. “I hope this investigation brings everything to the forefront."