Justice Department accuses Minneapolis police of rights violations after George Floyd’s killing

by Andrew Wright
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police misconduct

Minneapolis Police Accused of Rights Violations by Justice Department in the Aftermath of George Floyd’s Killing

Following an extensive investigation that commenced after the killing of George Floyd, the Justice Department has alleged that the Minneapolis police have engaged in systemic discrimination against Black and Native American individuals for years, frequently violating constitutional rights.

The probe, which spanned two years, revealed that Minneapolis officers routinely employed excessive force, including the use of “unjustified deadly force,” while infringing upon the rights of individuals exercising constitutionally protected speech. Furthermore, the investigation exposed instances in which both the police and the city discriminated against individuals with “behavioral health disabilities” when officers were called for assistance.

During a press conference in Minneapolis, Attorney General Merrick Garland acknowledged the professionalism, courage, and respect displayed by many officers within the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). However, he emphasized that the observed patterns and practices contributed to the circumstances that led to George Floyd’s tragic fate.

Garland cited numerous incidents in which officers disregarded the safety of individuals under their custody, often responding to complaints about breathing difficulties with dismissive statements like “You can breathe. You’re talking right now.”

The investigation further documented cases in which the police employed hazardous techniques and weapons against individuals accused of minor offenses or no offenses at all. Officers were found to have used force as a means of punishing individuals who criticized or angered them.

The report also highlighted disparities in the policing of neighborhoods based on their racial composition, with racial discrimination evident in search procedures, handcuffing, and the use of force during stops.

As a result of the investigation, the city and the police department have agreed to a federal consent decree. This agreement necessitates reforms overseen by an independent monitor and subject to approval by a federal judge. Similar reform efforts have been implemented in cities like Seattle, New Orleans, Baltimore, and Ferguson, Missouri.

Police Chief Brian O’Hara, who guided the Newark, New Jersey police through a consent decree, expressed the Minneapolis department’s commitment to establishing a police force that upholds the standards every resident of Minneapolis deserves.

Mayor Jacob Frey acknowledged the arduous journey ahead, recognizing that change is imperative and progress may entail hardship and obstacles. However, he reassured that significant efforts have been made since George Floyd’s murder three years ago.

The investigation was initiated in April 2021, the day after former officer Derek Chauvin, a white officer, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the killing of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. Floyd’s desperate pleas of not being able to breathe were recorded by a bystander and sparked widespread protests, becoming a catalyst for a broader national dialogue on racial injustice.

Garland also noted that the report revealed instances of Chauvin’s excessive use of force against other individuals on multiple occasions, with fellow officers failing to intervene.

The report further highlighted that the city dispatched officers to behavioral health-related 911 calls even when a law enforcement response was unnecessary or inappropriate, sometimes leading to tragic outcomes that endangered both MPD officers and the community.

The investigation findings were based on document reviews, incident files, body-worn camera footage, data provided by the city and police, as well as conversations and ride-alongs with officers, residents, and other relevant parties.

Federal investigators acknowledged that the city and the Minneapolis police have already begun implementing reforms. Notably, the use of neck restraints like the one employed by Chauvin has been prohibited, and officers now require permission from the chief to use certain crowd control weapons. Additionally, “no-knock” warrants were banned following the death of Amir Locke in 2022.

The city has also launched a promising behavioral health response program, where trained mental health professionals respond to certain calls instead of police officers.

The Justice Department’s findings are aligned with a separate investigation conducted by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. This investigation resulted in a court-enforceable settlement agreement aimed at addressing the extensive problems outlined in the report, with input from residents, officers, city staff, and other stakeholders. Mayor Frey and state Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero signed the agreement in March.

The state investigation, concluded in April 2022, exposed significant racial disparities in officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests. It also condemned the presence of an organizational culture where certain officers and supervisors freely employed racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language.

Lucero stated that the binding agreement requires the city and police department to implement transformative changes to rectify the organizational culture within the force. She believes this agreement could serve as a model for other cities, police departments, and communities aiming to combat race-based policing.

The report recommends 28 remedial steps to enhance policing, laying the groundwork for the subsequent consent decree. Garland emphasized that these steps serve as a starting point to improve public safety, build community trust, and ensure compliance with the constitution and federal law.

Mayor Frey expressed the city’s desire to have a single monitor overseeing both the federal plan and the state agreement to ensure a clear and objective assessment of compliance.

Several police departments in other cities are subject to consent decrees due to alleged civil rights violations. These decrees mandate specific goals that must be met before federal oversight is lifted, often entailing many years and millions of dollars.

George Floyd, aged 46, was arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes at a local store. During the arrest, he struggled with the police, leading to him being forcibly restrained on the ground despite already being handcuffed.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years for murder and also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights, resulting in a 21-year sentence. He is currently serving these sentences concurrently in Tucson, Arizona.

Salter contributed to this report from O’Fallon, Missouri.

For comprehensive coverage of George Floyd’s killing, please visit: https://bigbignews.net/death-of-george-floyd

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about police misconduct

What did the Justice Department accuse the Minneapolis police of?

The Justice Department accused the Minneapolis police of engaging in systematic discrimination against Black and Native American individuals, excessive use of force, and violations of constitutional rights.

What triggered the investigation by the Justice Department?

The investigation was triggered by the killing of George Floyd, which led to widespread protests and a national reckoning on racial injustice.

What were some of the findings of the investigation?

The investigation found that Minneapolis officers frequently used excessive force, including “unjustified deadly force.” It also revealed violations of the rights of individuals engaged in constitutionally protected speech and discrimination against those with behavioral health disabilities.

What actions will be taken as a result of the investigation?

The city and the police department agreed to a federal consent decree, which will require reforms overseen by an independent monitor and approved by a federal judge. Similar reform efforts have been implemented in other cities facing similar issues.

Are there other investigations or actions related to police misconduct in Minneapolis?

Yes, the Minnesota Department of Human Rights conducted a separate investigation, leading to a court-enforceable settlement agreement. This agreement aims to address the issues identified in the report and bring about transformative changes in the organizational culture of the police department.

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