Apr 21, 2021 - Politics & Policy

DOJ announces sweeping probe into Minneapolis policing practices

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced that the Justice Department will open a sweeping investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a "pattern or practice" of discriminatory policing practices.

Why it matters: The federal probe, which will also examine MPD's handling of misconduct allegations against officers, could result in significant changes to policing in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd's murder.

  • The announcement comes a day after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's killing, setting off celebrations across the country.
  • The Justice Department under Attorney General Bill Barr announced a separate federal civil rights investigation into Floyd's death last year, and reportedly empaneled a grand jury as it called new witnesses in February, according to the New York Times.

What they're saying: "Yesterday's verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis," Garland said in an address Wednesday.

  • The investigation will assess whether MPD "engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests," and feature a "comprehensive review" of the department's "policies, training, supervision and use of force investigations," according to Garland.
  • DOJ will also investigate whether MPD's treatment of those with "behavior health disabilities" is unlawful. Garland said experienced staff from DOJ's Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota have already begun the process of reaching out to both officers and members of the public as part of the review.

The bottom line: If DOJ uncovers evidence of "a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing," it will issue a public report on its findings, Garland said. The agency also has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit compelling MPD to change its policies.

Flashback: While Barr considered opening a discriminatory practices probe into MPD soon after Floyd's murder, he refrained from doing so in fear that it "could cause further divisions in law enforcement amid widespread protests and civil unrest," AP reports, citing three sources familiar with the matter.

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