Attorney General Merrick Garland says the guilty verdict of ex-officer Derek Chauvin doesn’t fix ‘potentially systemic police problems.’
A day after former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd, US Attorney General Merrick Garland revealed Wednesday that his department is opening a sweeping investigation into the police activities of the Minneapolis Police Department.
“Yesterday’s decision in the state criminal trial doesn’t fix potentially structural police problems in Minneapolis,” Garland said at a U.S. Justice Department news conference in Washington, DC.
“Today, I announce that the Justice Department has launched a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department is engaging in unethical or illegal police practices.”
Wednesday’s announcement comes after Chauvin was found guilty of murder and homicide in Floyd’s death last May, sparking a wave of relief but also sorrow across the nation. Floyd’s death, who was black, sparked months of demonstrations against police and demanding social justice throughout the U.S.
The Justice Department is now investigating whether Chauvin and the other Floyd’s death officers abused their civil rights.
An investigation is called a “pattern or procedure.” It would be a more sweeping department-wide investigation that could result in drastic improvements to police there, a source familiar with the matter told The Associated Press.
The inquiry will investigate police policies, including excessive use of force, especially during demonstrations, whether the department engages in racist acts, and whether its treatment of people with mental health disabilities is unconstitutional, Garland said.
Floyd, 46, was arrested on suspicion of exchanging $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes in a corner store. He panicked, pled claustrophobic and fought with officers as they attempted to put him in a squad car. Instead they put him on the grass.
The original Minneapolis police report said Floyd had died during police contact after a “medical incident.” The man “physically resisted police”, said he “was able to get the suspect into handcuffs, and noted that he seemed to experience medical distress.”
It didn’t mention calling bystanders to free the guy.
The centrepiece of the case was Floyd’s bystander footage, handcuffed behind his back, gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe,” and onlookers screaming at Chauvin to stop as the officer forced his knee on or around Floyd’s neck for what police claim was about 9.5 minutes, including several minutes after Floyd’s breath had stopped with no pulse.
The Department of Justice had previously considered launching a pattern or procedure investigation into the police department shortly after Floyd’s death, but then-Attorney General Bill Barr hesitated to do so at the time, believing it might trigger more divisions in law enforcement in the midst of widespread demonstrations and civil unrest, three people familiar with the matter told the Associated Press.
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