WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the Justice Department launched a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis after the guilty verdict in George Floyd’s death.
The probe “will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests,” Garland said a news conference.
The announcement comes a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May, setting off a wave of relief but also sadness across the country. The Black man’s death prompted months of mass protests against policing in the U.S.
“I know such wounds have deep roots and that too many communities have experienced these wounds firsthand,” Garland said. “Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.”
The investigation is known as a “pattern or practice” and will be a more sweeping probe of the entire department and may result in major changes to policing there, an official told the Associated Press.
The investigation will examine practices used by police and whether the department engages in discriminatory practices and will examine the department’s handling of misconduct allegations, among other things, the person said. It’s unclear how far back that will go.
It’s unclear whether the years under investigation will begin when Floyd died or before.
The Justice Department is already investigating whether the officers involved in Floyd’s death violated Floyd’s civil rights.
Garland has previously said he will make cracking down on police misconduct a priority.
In response, the Minneapolis Police Department announced they will cooperate fully and “welcomes this investigation.”
“The Chief understands that 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. The Chief has been insistent that he wants to make the MPD the best department possible,” said the police department in a statement.
The decision comes as President Joe Biden has promised his administration would not rest following the jury’s verdict in the case. In a Tuesday evening speech, he said much more needed to be done.
“‘I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Biden said. “We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away.”
The Justice Department had previously considered opening a pattern and practice investigation into the police department soon after Floyd’s death, but Attorney General Bill Barr was hesitant to do so at the time, fearing that it could cause further divisions in law enforcement amid widespread protests and civil unrest, three people familiar with the matter told the AP.
The Justice Department Friday withdrew a policy put in place during former President Donald Trump’s administration that limited the tools the federal government could use to monitor and probe police misconduct.
Garland, in a memo to staff, said the department would return to its traditional practices of investigating state and local police departments, allowing unit heads to approve most settlements and consent decrees.
Read the full statement in response to the investigation from the Minneapolis Police Department below:
Today the City of Minneapolis and the Minneapolis Police Department were advised of a Pattern and Practices investigation being initiated by the United States Department of Justice.
This investigation will focus on any patterns and practices of improper behaviors of the MPD. The investigation will assess if the MPD “engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests,” whether it engages in “discriminatory conduct,” and whether “its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful”.
Chief Arradondo welcomes this investigation. He, and the department, will cooperate fully. The Chief understands that 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. The Chief has been insistent that he wants to make the MPD the best department possible. With the assistance of the Department of Justice, the Chief believes he will have additional support, some of which he has been seeking over the last three years, to pursue changes he would like to see in his department.
The Department of Justice has extensive experience with these types of investigations. They are well versed in law enforcement techniques, training and best practices among today’s law enforcement agencies.
“I look forward to sharing the great work done by our teams, day in and day out, with the Department of Justice and getting their feedback on how we can serve our communities even better,” said Chief Arradondo.
Any questions regarding this investigation should be directed to the United States Department of Justice
Reporting by AP’s Michael Balsamo and Amy Forliti. The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.