Skip to main content

Boreal Community Media

Feds to probe Minneapolis police practices in wake of Chauvin's conviction

Apr 21, 2021 02:40PM ● By Editor
Michael Wilson (right) hugs Pamela Weems at George Floyd Square as people arrive to celebrate the verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis on Tuesday.  Photo: Evan Frost | MPR News

By Jon Collins and Dan Gunderson of Minnesota Public Radio News - April 21, 2021

The Justice Department is opening a broad investigation into the Minneapolis police.

The inquiry will probe department policies, training, supervision and use of force to see if there’s a pattern of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, including during protests, Attorney General Merrick Garland said Wednesday.

If the investigation finds unlawful practices, the federal government will seek changes through a consent agreement with the city, or a civil rights lawsuit, he said, adding that investigators will also look to see if the department engages in discriminatory practices. 

The Justice Department said it would also reach out to community groups and the public to learn about their experiences with Minneapolis police.

“I know that justice is sometimes slow, sometimes elusive, and sometimes never comes,” Garland said. “The Department of Justice will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under law."

The investigation announcement follows Tuesday’s murder and manslaughter conviction of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the May killing of George Floyd.

Images caught on video of Chauvin, a white police officer, pressing his knee against a prone, handcuffed Black man pleading for air, set off nationwide protests against police practices and brutality.

Police Chief Medaria Arradondo, the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey applauded the news of the Justice Department’s “pattern or practice” inquiry.

“The intent of this inquiry is to reveal any deficiencies or unwanted conduct within the department and provide adequate resources and direction to correct them,” Arradondo’s office said, adding that the chief and the department will cooperate fully.

The Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis declined to comment on news of the coming investigation.

The Justice Department is already investigating whether the officers involved in Floyd's death violated his civil rights. The new probe could result in major changes in policing in the city of Minneapolis.

Chauvin was one of several officers called to a south Minneapolis street corner last May on a report of a man allegedly using a counterfeit $20 to buy cigarettes at a local store. He arrived to find other officers struggling to arrest Floyd and get him in a squad car as Floyd pleaded that he was claustrophobic.

The encounter turned fatal as officers pulled Floyd to the ground to subdue him during the arrest.

Bystander video captured Chauvin with his knee pressed against Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as the man lay pinned to the street, handcuffed and face down, pleading that he couldn’t breathe while people shouted from the curb that Floyd was dying.

‘Changing the culture of the police department’

“Pattern or practice” investigations can take six to nine months if they’re done quickly, said Jonathan Smith, a former Justice Department official who helped lead more than two dozen inquiries into police departments around the country during the Obama administration. 

Negotiating a consent decree can add a couple more months, and it’s only after that step that real work of changing the department starts, which can take years or even decades, added Smith, who now leads the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs.

“[It] provided a record that demonstrated that while the issues in each of those communities was unique, that there were problems that were universal in policing in the country, and played a real role in the conversations around how we should change policing, transform policing,” Smith said of the investigations.

While the work ebbed during the Trump administration, Smith expects renewed efforts under President Joe Biden.

“The kind of change that we’re asking police departments to make [can] take a long time to implement,” Smith said. “They require changing policy, changing training, changing accountability systems with the goal of changing the culture of the police department.”  

To read more of the original report and see related stories, follow this link to the MPR News website.
Upcoming Events Near You
Boreal Ship Spotter - larger view here