Published on: Wednesday, April 21, 2021

During a press conference this morning, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced that the Department of Justice opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.  After acknowledging Derek Chauvin’s conviction for the murder of George Floyd, Garland said:

My heart goes out to [the Floyd family] and to all those who have experienced similar loss.  I know such wounds have deep roots, and that too many communities have experienced those wounds first hand. Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.

The civil investigation will be staffed by attorneys and personnel from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.  The new civil investigation is separate from, and independent of, DOJ’s criminal investigation into the death of George Floyd that had been previously announced.

Drawing on DOJ’s statutory authority to look beyond individual instances of police misconduct to assess systemic failures, the civil investigation will examine whether the MPD has a pattern or practice of engaging in unconstitutional or unlawful policing, such as excessive use of force, including during protests.  It will also assess whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful.  The comprehensive investigation will include review of the MPD’s training, policies, supervision, use of force investigations, and the effectiveness of its current system of accountability and whether further mechanisms and safeguards are necessary. DOJ will continue to seek input from the community during its investiagtion. If DOJ concludes there is a pattern or practice of unlawful policing, it will issue a report and pursue injunctive remedies in Court.

In conclusion, Garland noted that “justice is sometimes slow, sometimes elusive, and sometimes never comes”   After acknowledging the challenges we face are deeply woven into our history, he said “building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us.  But we undertake this task with determination and urgency knowing that change cannot wait.”