DOJ to investigate if there's a pattern of 'unconstitutional or unlawful policing' at Minneapolis PD

The DOJ will see whether the police department engages in 'pattern and practice' of illegal conduct.
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Merrick Garland

The Department of Justice has announced the launch of an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department following the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced at a press conference Wednesday a probe into policing practices at the department, to determine whether there is a pattern of "unconstitutional or unlawful policing."

Among the things the DOJ will look at is whether MPD engages in the "pattern or practice" use of excessive force including during protests, whether the department engages in discriminatory conduct, and whether it treats those with behavioral health disabilities unlawfully.

This would be separate from the ongoing federal civil rights investigation into the death of George Floyd, which was launched by former Attorney General William Barr.

Garland said that investigation will look "beyond individual incidents to address systemic failures," that will also delve into the department's training and use of force guidelines, and assess its "current system of accountability" and determine if more systems are needed.

If the DOJ investigation concludes there's a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful conduct, it will issue a public report of its conclusions, and could bring a civil lawsuit asking for an injunction ordering MPD to change its policies or practices.

Garland said usually in those situations, a police department would enter into a settlement agreement or a consent decree "to ensure prompt and effective action is taken to align policing practices with the law."

The AG said most of the nation's law enforcement officers "do their difficult jobs honorably and lawfully" and believes "good officers welcome accountability because it's an essential part of building trust with the community."

Prior to killing Floyd on May 25, 2020, Derek Chauvin was subject of at least 18 misconduct complaints during his almost 20-year career with the Minneapolis Police Department, only two of which were "closed with discipline," with the only punishment in those instances being a letter of reprimand.

The culture of the Minneapolis Police Department was also described in this story by the Minnesota Reformer entitled "Bad cops: How Minneapolis protects its worst police officers until it’s too late."

The article was based upon 195 disciplinary reports obtained by the Reformer, which it said "show a pattern of mismanagement when it comes to holding officers accountable," and that only in the "most egregious acts of abuse" such as Chauvin's or Mohamed Noor's fatal shooting of Justine Damond are officers removed from the force.

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