The US Department of Justice opened a civil investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department’s practices, one day after the conviction of former Minneapolis police offer Derek Chauvin for the death of George Floyd.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a news conference on Wednesday that the aim of the investigation, which is separate from the federal criminal investigation into Floyd’s death that has already been underway, is to assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests, Xinhua news agency reported.
The just-announced investigation falls into the category known as “pattern-or-practice investigations,” which the DOJ has said often examine “whether the police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches, or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment; use of excessive force; discriminatory policing; violation of the constitutional rights of criminal suspects; or violation of First Amendment rights”.
“The investigation will also assess whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct, and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful,” Garland said, adding the probe will “include a comprehensive review of the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies, training, supervision and use-of-force investigations.”
Garland said that if the DOJ concludes “there’s reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” they will issue a public report of their conclusions and the agency has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit asking a federal court to “provide injunctive relief that orders the MPD to change its policies and practices to avoid further violations.”
The attorney general said the DOJ “has already begun to reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the MPD,” adding federal investigators will also reach out to police officers to gather information related to the training and support they receive.
“The challenges we face are deeply woven into our history. They did not arise today or last year. Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency knowing that change cannot wait,” Garland said at the end of his remarks.
Garland’s announcement came one day after a jury found Chauvin guilty on all the three criminal charges against him — second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter — for kneeling on the neck of Floyd, a black man, for nine minutes and 29 seconds in May 2020.
The former police officer could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter.