By: Bruce C.T. Wright, Newsone
Mural and Memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis
Confirming widespread suspicions, an investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) has determined that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) as well as the city of Minneapolis have not only been engaging in a pattern of racist behavior but have also done so while being abusive to mostly Black and brown people.
The DOJ findings come more than three years after city police officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to apply deadly pressure to the neck of George Floyd, who was handcuffed at the time and insisting he couldn’t breathe as stunned onlookers recorded video footage of the murder.
In particular, the DOJ found that MPD routinely employs “excessive force, including unjustified deadly force and unreasonable use of tasers; Unlawfully discriminates against Black people and Native American people in its enforcement activities, including the use of force following stops;” and “Violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech.”
As a result of its findings, the DOJ said that it and the city of Minneapolis have entered into a consent decree “to resolve the [DOJ’s] findings.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who restored the DOJ’s power to investigate police shortly after he was confirmed in 2021, described the DOJ’s findings in Minneapolis as just the beginning of being able to forge a legitimate path forward for the city’s police department to truly protect and serve its Black and Brown citizens.
“George Floyd’s death had an irrevocable impact on his family, on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world,” Garland said in a statement. “The patterns and practices of conduct the Justice Department observed during our investigation are deeply disturbing. They erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. And they made what happened to George Floyd possible. Today, we have completed our investigation, but this is only the first step. We will continue to work with the city and the MPD toward ensuring that MPD officers have the support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively and lawfully as we work together toward meaningful and durable reform.”
Floyd’s murder seemingly has not prevented Minneapolis police from its aggressive — and, according to the DOJ, racist and abusive — tactics, as shown with the shooting death of Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who police shot last year within seconds of seeing him while he was sleeping in an apartment they raided in search of another person.
The lawyers representing Locke’s family called the DOJ report “deeply disturbing” and condemned “these unconstitutional patterns and practices on the community and individual lives.” They also expressed “hope” about the efficacy of the consent decree but admitted they have doubts.
“Unfortunately, our legal team remains skeptical about Minneapolis’ commitment to change and accountability,” the statement by civil rights attorneys Ben Crump, Antonio Romanucci, and Jeff Storms said in part because of how Minneapolis has repeatedly tried to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Locke’s parents.
“This continued refusal to police from within is a textbook example of why the federal government must police the Minneapolis police,” the lawyers said.
The conclusions from the DOJ’s investigation are especially important as efforts at reforming the police on a federal scale have repeatedly failed or stalled in Congress. The George Floyd Justice In Policing Act — proposed sweeping legislation aimed at reforming how police departments enforce the nation’s laws — has not advanced past the Senate.
In particular, the George Floyd Justice In Policing Act would have eliminated qualified immunity, a deal-breaker for Republicans who are in favor of keeping the legal protections that shield police officers from civil liability when they’ve violated a citizen’s constitutional rights.