Justice Department opens civil investigation into Minneapolis Police Department

WASHINGTON — U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced that the Justice Department is opening a civil investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department’s practices.

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The announcement came one day after a jury found former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in the May 2020 death of 46-year-old George Floyd.

>> Related: Derek Chauvin trial: Former Minneapolis police officer convicted of murder, manslaughter in death of George Floyd

“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said Wednesday. “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 the investigation will focus on whether the police department “engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests,” and on assessing “whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct, and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful.”

It was not immediately clear Wednesday whether the investigation would focus on practices from before or after Floyd died. Garland said officials will issue a public report if the Justice Department finds a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. The department could also bring a lawsuit against the police department, which in the past have typically ended in settlement agreements or consent decrees to force changes.

The Minneapolis Police Department is also being investigated by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which is looking into the department’s policies and practices over the last decade to see if it engaged in systemic discriminatory practices.

Previously, DOJ officials announced an investigation into whether any federal civil rights laws were violated on May 25, 2020, when Chauvin and other police officers detained Floyd as part of an investigation into a possibly counterfeit $20 used at a Minneapolis convenience store.

>> Related: ‘Today we are able to breathe again’: George Floyd’s family reacts to Chauvin’s conviction

Video posted on social media and featured heavily in Chauvin’s trial showed the then-officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes as he pleaded for air and for his mother. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.