The Phoenix Police Department is facing a public-records lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Arizona.
In its complaint, the ACLU Foundation of Arizona alleged that the Phoenix Police Department refused to provide public records regarding the Trump protest in August.
Tens of thousands of people attended the rally, which was peaceful. At around 8:30 PM, the police started using smoke, gas, and impact projectiles to disperse protesters. The public raised concerns and accused the police of deploying chemical weapons and using harmful tactics against protesters without warning.
In defense, the Phoenix Police Department said protesters started throwing rocks and bottles at officers after Pres. Donald Trump’s speech.
According to the civil rights group, it submitted two public records requests after the Trump protest. However, the Phoenix Police Department did not release the records. Instead, it used the records to refute allegations of police misconduct during the rally.
The Department told the civil rights group to wait until the completion of a “comprehensive after action report.” Its hope was to finish it by the end of the year. However, the department also indicated the possibility that it may not release the requested records regarding the protest.
Phoenix Police Department allegedly violates the law
The ACLU Foundation of Arizona argued that the Phoenix Police Department violates the State’s public records law. Its unwillingness to promptly release the records directly contradicts the primary purpose of the law—to provide transparency.
Under the Arizona law, all records should be “open to the public for inspection.” The law also mandates prompt compliance with public-records request. Failure to do so constitutes a “wrongful denial,” according to the civil rights group.
In a statement, ACLU of Arizona Legal Director Kathy Brody, “The department failed to protect the First Amendment rights of demonstrators that night.”
“Now, the public deserves to see the critical records documenting the Phoenix Police Department’s actions. The department must stop withholding the information about how and why officers used violent force and sent many Arizonans home with cuts, bruises, and other injuries.”
In response to the lawsuit, the Phoenix Police Department said its Professional Standards Bureau is still reviewing and processing an “immense amount of records” related to the Trump protest.
“It has always been our intention to release the review and associated records as quickly as possible. We anticipate the review will be completed within the coming weeks. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide specific comments on pending lawsuits,” according to the department.