Justice Department Finds Civil Rights Violations by the Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis

The Justice Department on Friday announced that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and the City of Minneapolis (City) engage in a pattern or practice of conduct in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

Specifically, the Justice Department finds that the MPD:

  • Uses excessive force, including unjustified deadly force and unreasonable use of tasers;
  • Unlawfully discriminates against Black people and Native American people in its enforcement activities, including the use of force following stops;
  • Violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech; and
  • Along with the city, discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to calls for assistance.

The investigation, known as a “pattern or practice” investigation, began in April 2021, shortly after former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd. The findings of the investigation were announced by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, along with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Brian O’Hara.

George Floyd’s death had an irrevocable impact on his family, on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The patterns and practices of conduct the Justice Department observed during our investigation are deeply disturbing. They erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. And they made what happened to George Floyd possible. Today, we have completed our investigation, but this is only the first step. We will continue to work with the city and the MPD toward ensuring that MPD officers have the support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively and lawfully as we work together toward meaningful and durable reform.”

The Justice Department’s investigation focused on determining whether the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in unconstitutional or unlawful policing practices. This included examining the use of force by officers, especially during protests, and evaluating potential discriminatory practices. The investigation also assessed the department’s handling of misconduct allegations and its accountability measures for officers.

“Every American deserves policing that is fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The protests that unfolded across Minneapolis, and the country, underscore the urgency behind our efforts to ensure that police departments respect constitutional rights, while garnering public trust. We will stand by the people of Minneapolis as we work to institute reforms that are lasting and enduring.”

Previously, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights conducted a similar investigation and reached a “court-enforceable settlement agreement” to address the issues identified. This agreement involved input from residents, officers, city staff, and other stakeholders. The federal investigation may lead to a separate court-enforceable agreement, known as a consent decree, that complements the state settlement.

George Floyd’s arrest on suspicion of using counterfeit money resulted in a confrontation with the police that led to his death. Former officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, despite Floyd’s pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Chauvin was subsequently convicted of murder and manslaughter.

Chauvin’s fellow officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao, were also convicted in federal court for their involvement in Floyd’s death. Kueng and Lane pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting manslaughter charges at the state level, while Thao is awaiting sentencing for aiding and abetting manslaughter.

The federal investigation’s findings highlight the need for systemic changes within the Minneapolis Police Department to prevent future violations of constitutional rights and ensure fair and unbiased policing practices.

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