US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday launched a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis following a jury’s verdict that former city police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd.
“Today, I am announcing that the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” Garland said at a news conference.
He said the civil probe – separate from an ongoing criminal investigation into Floyd’s death – will examine whether the police systematically engaged in the use of excessive force, including during legal protests.
It will also examine whether the city force showed a pattern of discrimination and unlawful treatment of people with behavioral health disabilities, Garland said.
If evidence is found of a pattern of unlawful practices, the investigation could possibly lead to a civil lawsuit seeking to compel the city to undertake sweeping reforms of its police department.
“The Justice department will be unwavering in its pursuit of equal justice under law,” Garland said.
Chauvin’s conviction was a milestone in the fraught racial history of the United States and a rebuke of law enforcement’s treatment of Black Americans.
Garland has previously said he will make cracking down on police misconduct a priority.
President Joe Biden called the conviction of Chauvin a “giant step” towards justice in the United States.
The Justice Department previously announced an investigation into whether the officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights.
Last Friday the Justice Department 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.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)