WASHINGTON – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the launch of an investigation into the police department in the Midwestern city of Minneapolis one day after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of 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 Wednesday at the Justice Department.
Garland said the new probe “is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation” into Floyd’s death last May that sparked a wave of protests in the U.S. and abroad against police brutality and racism in the U.S.
Floyd, an African American, died after Chauvin, who is white, pinned his knee against the back of Floyd’s neck for about 9 1/2 minutes during an arrest as Floyd pleaded he could not breath.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, regularly suggested during the trial that Chauvin’s knee was not on Floyd’s neck as long as prosecutors maintained, arguing his knee was instead across Floyd’s shoulder blades, back and arm.
“Most of our nation’s law enforcement officers do their difficult jobs honorably and lawfully,” Garland said. “I strongly believe that good officers do not want to work in systems that allow bad practices.”
In addition to reviewing the department’s policing practices, the investigation will explore whether it engages in discriminatory behavior and its responses to misconduct accusations.
The Justice Department previously launched an investigation into whether the officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights.
Garland’s decision to begin the sweeping civil investigation came as President Joe Biden vowed his administration would continue to fight for policing reform and an end to systemic racism.
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris called on Congress shortly after Chauvin’s guilty verdicts were announced to approve policing reform legislation and a bill named for Floyd.
Biden also called on Americans to address hatred to “change the hearts and minds, as well as laws and policies.”