WASHINGTON — Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday that the Department of Justice is launching an investigation into Minneapolis’ policing policies.
The announcement comes a day after Derek Chauvin was convicted on all three counts in the death of George Floyd last year. The former Minneapolis police officer was found guilty of second- and third-degree murder, as well as second-degree manslaughter, which could send him to prison for the rest of his life.
The verdict, Garland said, “does not address, potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.” The department is opening a civil investigation “to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” he said.
“The investigation I am announcing today will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department, engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests,” Garland said. “The investigation will also assess whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful.”
The inquiry will involve a comprehensive review of the police department’s policies, supervision, training and use-of-force investigations, Garland said. If the Justice Department finds reasonable cause to believe there’s a pattern or practice of unlawful policing, it will issue a public report of its findings.
The Justice Department could also bring a civil lawsuit, asking a federal court to order the police department to change its practices, he said.
“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. Good officers welcome accountability because accountability is an essential part of building trust with the community and public safety requires public trust.”
Separately, Garland said Tuesday after Chauvin’s conviction that a federal civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death is ongoing.
During the Chauvin trial, prosecutors presented the jury with a video recorded by bystanders that showed Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes. Prosecutors argued that Chauvin’s actions caused Floyd to die from asphyxiation.
Video showed Floyd repeatedly yelling out, “I can’t breathe.” His death led to nationwide protests last summer.
President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of Floyd’s family renewed their calls after Chauvin’s verdict for Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which the House passed in early March. The police reform bill that would ban chokeholds and overhaul qualified immunity protections for officers.
Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to support the legislation in the Senate in order for it to pass.
Rebecca Shabad is a congressional reporter for NBC News, based in Washington.