DOJ: This 'Made What Happened to George Floyd Possible'

After 2-year investigation, agency finds Minneapolis cops engaged in pattern of discrimination
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 16, 2023 11:13 AM CDT
DOJ: This 'Made What Happened to George Floyd Possible'
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a meeting in Washington on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

The Justice Department accused Minneapolis police Friday of engaging in a pattern of violating constitutional rights and discriminating against Black and Native American people following an investigation prompted by the killing of George Floyd. The sweeping two-year civil rights investigation concluded that systemic problems in the Minneapolis Police Department "made what happened to George Floyd possible," per the AP. The probe found that Minneapolis officers used excessive force, including "unjustified deadly force," and violated the rights of people engaged in constitutionally protected speech. The probe also found that both Minneapolis police and the city discriminated against people with "behavioral health disabilities" when officers were called for help.

"For years, MPD used dangerous techniques and weapons against people who committed at most a petty offense and sometimes no offense at all," the report said. Police "used force to punish people who made officers angry or criticized the police." Cops "patrolled neighborhoods differently based on their racial composition and discriminated based on race when searching, handcuffing, or using force against people during stops," the report said. The "pattern or practice" probe was launched in April 2021, a day after ex-officer Derek Chauvin, who's white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, killing of Floyd, who was Black. Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe before going limp as Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes.

The report found that the city sent officers to behavioral health-related 911 calls, "even when a law enforcement response was not appropriate or necessary, sometimes with tragic results. These actions put MPD officers and the Minneapolis community at risk." The findings were based on reviews of documents and incident files; observation of body-worn camera videos; data provided by the city and police; and ride-alongs and conversations with officers, residents, and others. Federal investigators acknowledged that the city and Minneapolis police have already begun reforms. The report noted that police are now prohibited from using neck restraints like the one Chauvin used in killing Floyd. Officers are also no longer allowed to use some crowd control weapons without permission from the chief, and "no-knock" warrants were banned after the 2022 death of Amir Locke.

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The city also has launched a "promising" behavioral health response program in which trained mental health professionals respond to some calls rather than police, per the report. The DOJ isn't alone in its findings of problems. A similar investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights led to a "court-enforceable settlement agreement" to address the long list of problems IDed in the report, with input from residents, officers, city staff, and others. The state investigation, which concluded in April 2022, found "significant racial disparities with respect to officers' use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests." It also criticized "an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity."

(More Minneapolis stories.)

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