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Phoenix hires big-name attorney for DOJ investigation

Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams
Posted at 3:58 PM, May 18, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-18 21:24:22-04

PHOENIX — Phoenix has hired the former inspector general of the U.S. Department of Justice to represent the city in the federal government’s sweeping pattern or practice investigation of police practices.

Michael Bromwich and his law firm, Steptoe & Johnson LLP, were retained by the city in December, according to records obtained by ABC15.

Attorneys will be paid either $550 or $695 per hour for legal services related to the Department of Justice’s sweeping probe of the Phoenix police department.

As of May 3, 2022, Phoenix officials told ABC15 the legal costs reached $39,093.

Bromwich is based in Washington D.C. and has a high-profile background and client list.

“His most recent publicly disclosed representations have included Christine Blasey Ford, Andrew McCabe, and Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx. Additionally, he served as the independent monitor for Apple (antitrust) and Walmart (US ethics),” according to a bio listed on Steptoe’s website. “Most recently, Michael led a team of Steptoe lawyers in an investigation of the largest corruption scandal in the history of the Baltimore Police Department.”

Bromwich is now tasked with representing a police department facing one of the most expansive federal probes of its kind.

In August, DOJ officials announced that they would investigate Phoenix in the five following areas: Excessive and deadly force; discriminatory policing; retaliation against protesters; response to people in behavioral health crisis; and the treatment of those experiencing homelessness.

ABC15 has learned some of those focuses have expanded in recent months.

Multiple community and legal sources said that federal investigators are digging into officers’ use of force against minors and have interviewed people in specific cases. The DOJ is also looking at Phoenix’s internal investigation process and how effectively the department polices itself.

The DOJ investigation was announced in August 2021.

It came in the middle of ABC15’s “Politically Charged” investigation, which exposed police and prosecutors colluded to invent a gang and then falsely charge protesters as members in late 2020.

The station’s reports also revealed that members of the department’s protest response team shared, sold, and traded challenge coins to celebrate violence against a protester in 2017.

Federal investigators have interviewed the protester depicted on the coin and have conducted interviews regarding multiple past protest responses and arrests, according to multiple sources.

Another one of the protests under examination by the DOJ happened in 2019, when officers falsely arrested a public defense attorney, who’s also a Black Lives Matter organizer.

There is no timetable for the Department of Justice’s investigation into Phoenix police.

Shortly after the announcement, city officials said they believed the initial investigation could take a year. But that seems unlikely.

Federal investigators made their first official onsite visit in March with another coming in late April. The DOJ continues to request new documents and is still coordinating access to Phoenix record-keeping systems, according to information posted by the city.

Chief Jeri Williams unexpectedly announced her retirement earlier this month.

City Manager Jeff Barton said he plans to hire an interim chief from outside the department with experience handling Department of Justice investigations. The city had also recently posted a job opening for an assistant chief seeking similar qualifications.

Contact ABC15 Chief Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.