Reuters – The U.S. Department of Justice opened a full civilian investigation into Minneapolis police practices on Wednesday after a jury found that former city policeman Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
The investigation marks Attorney General Merrick Garland’s first major action after President Joe Biden promised to look into systemic racism in the United States. It will examine whether the department “engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests,” he said.
He added that it is also examining whether the department “engages in discriminatory behavior and whether its treatment of people with behavioral disorders is unlawful”.
Chauvin’s belief was a landmark in the troubled racial history of the United States and an allegation against the law enforcement treatment of black Americans. Floyd’s death was one in a long list of police killings that sparked protests across the country.
“I know that such wounds have deep roots. That too many churches have seen these wounds firsthand. Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal case does not address potentially systemic police problems in Minneapolis, “Garland said.
Garland previously announced that he will make tackling police misconduct a priority.
A separate Justice Department investigation into whether the officials involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights continues, Garland said.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is also investigating the local police there.
In separate statements, both the public prosecutor and the police chief Medaria Arradondo welcomed the federal investigation and promised to cooperate.
The Minneapolis City Council also announced its support for the investigation and welcomed “the opportunity for the Justice Department to use the full weight of its powers to hold the Minneapolis Police Department accountable for any abuse of power.”
The decision to open an investigation into systemic police issues is a sharp contrast to former President Donald Trump’s administration, which severely restricted the use of law enforcement agreements to prevent police departments from violating people’s civil rights.
Garland lifted that policy on Friday, saying the department would revert to its traditional practices of investigating state and local police departments, allowing department heads to approve most settlements and consent ordinances.
On Wednesday, Garland announced that Justice Department officials have already started reaching out to community groups in Minneapolis to ask about their law enforcement experience and plan to speak to police officers there about the training and support they are receiving.
If a finding of wrongdoing is exposed, Garland said the Justice Department would issue a public report and possibly also could file a civil lawsuit for relief from a judge.
Lisa Bender, president of Minneapolis city council, told Reuters in an interview that Justice Department officials had informed the city of their decision to open the investigation on Wednesday morning shortly before it was released.
Bender said she wasn’t surprised by the news, noting that the color communities there had long complained about problems with the over-police.
“Even our publicly available data shows mixed results on who gets stopped at traffic stops,” she said, adding that she and her colleagues “welcome any opportunity to understand what contributes to these different results and look for ways how we can improve. ” . ”
There are currently four police practice probes open in the Justice Department, in addition to the Minneapolis one. The others, which opened prior to Garland’s tenure, are concentrated in Orange County, Ca. District Attorney’s and Sheriff’s Offices, and the Springfield, Mass. Police Department.
A total of 16 settlements are currently being enforced with law enforcement agencies across the country.
The jury found the 45-year-old chauvin guilty of second degree murder, third degree murder and manslaughter after three weeks of examining testimony from 45 witnesses, including bystanders, police officers and medical experts.
In a videotaped confrontation, Chauvin, a white police veteran, handcuffed his knee to Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, for more than nine minutes on May 25, 2020.
The condemnation sparked a wave of relief and reflection not only in the US but in countries around the world as well.
As the crowd celebrated the verdict, protesters called for justice in the case of Daunte Wright, a black man who was fatally shot and killed by a police officer on April 11 after a routine traffic obstruction just a few miles from where the chauvin was in court was standing. Kimberly Potter, who turned in her badge, was charged with manslaughter in this case.
As the country focused on the Minneapolis guilty verdict, Columbus, Ohio police fatally shot and killed a black teenage girl they faced when she struck two people with a knife, as seen on police video footage of the encounter, announced the authorities. The incident sparked street protests in Ohio.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Jan Wolfe; Additional reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)