Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department to determine if the department “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.”
“The new civil investigation is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation into the death of George Floyd that the justice department has previously announced,” Garland said.
This is the first major announcement made by Garland since he was confirmed last month as attorney general.
Garland said the investigation will look into wether the MPD engages in “discriminatory conduct” and will look at the department’s policies and training as well as use-of-force investigations.
“The Justice Department has already begun to reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the MPD,” he said, adding federal investigators will also reach out to officers about training and the support they receive.
He said the effort will be staffed by attorneys and personnel from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division as well as the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota.
“I know such wounds have deep roots and that too many communities have experienced those wounds firsthand,” Garland said, reflecting on the conviction of Derek Chauvin on Tuesday. “Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.”
Garland said that if the DOJ concludes “there’s reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” they will issue a public report of their conclusions and the agency has authority to bring a civil lawsuit asking a federal court to “provide injunctive relief that orders the MPD to change its policies and practices to avoid further violations.”
The attorney general noted that most of the nation’s “officers do their difficult jobs honorably and lawfully,” and that “good officers welcome accountability.”
“The challenges we face are deeply woven into our history. They did not arise today or last year. 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,” Garland said in closing.
Watch Attorney General Garland make the announcement: