Office of Accountability and Transparency releases reviews of 2 Phoenix excessive force cases

Feb 22, 2024, 5:00 PM

Phoenix's police oversight office released its first reviews of the department's excessive force ca...

Phoenix's police oversight office released its first reviews of the department's excessive force cases on Feb. 22, 2024. (Phoenix Police Photo)

(Phoenix Police Photo)

PHOENIX — Phoenix’s police oversight office released its first reviews of the department’s excessive force cases on Thursday.

The Office of Accountability and Transparency (OAT) gave its reports on two 2022 cases, including one that made national news after a Black Wall Street Journal reporter was detained while conducting man-on-the street interviews.

“The recommendations provided in the first two monitoring reports, released today, are insightful and valuable,” Interim Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan said in a statement.

“In the coming days, we will thoroughly review the reports and formulate a response that will be shared with OAT and made accessible to the public, reflecting our unwavering commitment to transparency and accountability.”

What conclusions did the Phoenix police oversight office come to?

In the case involving WSJ reporter Dion Rabouin, OAT said that an officer with the Phoenix Police Department conducted a search of him without establishing a full custody arrest.

All other allegations were deemed unfounded. Those included unlawfully detaining Rabouin, using excessive force on him while detained and wrongfully detaining him because of his race.

OAT did say that it was unsatisfied with the review of the incident from Phoenix police, which is still awaiting the release of the Department of Justice’s report on its pattern of practice investigation.

“OAT’s conclusion following review is that the Department’s administrative investigation was not thorough and complete,” OAT said in its findings.

Rabouin was conducting interviews for a story about savings accounts at a Chase Bank near 32nd Street and Cactus Road on Nov. 23, 2023, when the incident occurred.

Rabouin filed a complaint that month, claiming the officer used excessive force while unlawfully detaining him, detained him based on his race and threatened to assault him if he did not comply.

The reporter was in Phoenix to visit his family during the Thanksgiving holiday last year when the incident happened.

In the other case, OAT said the actions of an officer were within department policy.

That incident happened Dec. 4, 2023, after the officer responded to a stolen vehicle call at a Circle K near 27th Avenue and Deer Valley Road.

When the officer arrived, the suspect opened the vehicle’s driver’s side door and pointed his gun at the suspect while issuing orders.

The suspect didn’t comply, according to police, and the officer struck the suspect multiple times in the face and the head while on the ground. The suspect suffered broken bones to his orbital socket and neck.

What is the OAT?

The Phoenix City Council passed the creation of OAT in May 2021.

The office monitors and investigates members of the Phoenix Police Department, provides recommendations for training, policy and disciplinary actions as well as ensures complaints against officers are handled fairly and objectively, including a thorough and fair investigation.

Staff of the office monitor or investigate use of force, in-custody deaths, and other community complaints before making recommendations on whether the investigation was sufficient and suggest any discipline or needed policy changes.

Former law enforcement or a family member of a law enforcement member are not allowed to serve as part of the staff.

The office’s first director, Roger Smith, resigned in January after two years on the job.

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Office of Accountability and Transparency releases reviews of 2 Phoenix excessive force cases