Justice Department Launches Probe of Minneapolis Police Practices

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about the Chauvin verdict at the Department of Justice on April 21, 2021. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice will be launching a civil investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department to determine whether the department “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.” The inquiry will review uses of excessive force (particularly during protests) as well as the treatment of people with “behavioral health disabilities” to determine if officers participate in discriminatory conduct.

This comes just one day after a jury found former MPD officer Derek Chauvin guilty of murder and manslaughter in the death of George Floyd.

During a news conference, Garland said the verdict rendered in the Chauvin case “does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.”

He also said this investigation is “separate from and independent of” the ongoing federal criminal investigation into Floyd’s death.

“It will include a comprehensive review of the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies, training, supervision and use-of-force investigations. It will assess the effectiveness of the MPD’s current systems of accountability and whether other mechanisms are needed to ensure constitutional and lawful policing,” Garland said.

The attorney general said the probe will be led by members from the Justice Department’s civil-rights division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the district of Minnesota. President Biden recently named Kristen Clark as his choice to lead the department’s civil-rights team, a nomination that has faced fierce opposition from Senate Republicans.

Garland is asking for “broad participation” from law enforcement and the community in the investigation, calling it “vital to its success.”

“The Justice Department has already begun to reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the MPD,” Garland said. “We also seek to hear from the department’s officers about the training and support they receive because their perspective is essential.”

He added, “All these voices will be critical to the reform efforts that will follow if the investigation determines the existence of constitutional or statutory violations.”

The Minneapolis Police Department has been under significant scrutiny in recent years owing to several deadly encounters between their officers and members of the public. Prior to Floyd’s death in 2020, then-Officer Mohamed Noor shot and killed Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017 after responding to a 911 call she made about a possible sexual assault occurring behind her home.

Noor was found guilty of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in 2019. Chauvin, who faced charges of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd’s death, was found guilty on all counts by a jury.

Garland said that a public report with the Justice Department’s conclusions will be released if a systemic pattern of misconduct is found. He also indicated that the department could file a civil suit in federal court to order the Minneapolis Police Department to change its practices.

DOJ Launches Probe of Minneapolis Police Practices