DOJ: Minneapolis Police Department consistently violated civil rights News
© WikiMedia (Leonhard Lenz)
DOJ: Minneapolis Police Department consistently violated civil rights

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report Friday alleging that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) “engage[d] in a pattern or practice of conduct in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal law.” The report comes after an extensive investigation that began in April 2021 after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the MPD.

The report concludes that the MPD used excessive force, discriminated against both Black and Native American citizens, violated the rights of protestors and discriminated against people with behavioral health conditions. The report goes on to attribute these violations to: the overall complexity of the MPD’s system for citizens to launch complaints against officers; lack of proper internal investigations of officers; poor enforcement of discipline policies; poor training both for officers and supervisors; lack of accessible data on officers for supervisors to review; inappropriate staffing and hiring practices; and lack of thorough mental health support for officers.

The report concludes by stating:

MPD uses unreasonable force, infringes on First Amendment rights, and discriminates based on race and disability. MPD also lacks the systemic safeguards that can prevent or address those abuses, such as effective accountability, rigorous training, robust supervision, and appropriate officer support.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced the report, saying, “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.”

President Joe Biden released a statement on the report, saying, “The findings are disturbing and underscore the urgent need for Congress to pass common sense reforms that increase public trust, combat racial discrimination and thereby strengthen public safety.”

The Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey welcomed the report as “an essential step forward for community trust and community safety.” Minneapolis Police Chief Brian O’Hara echoed these sentiments, saying, “These findings are a major step in reforming this department into one that provides a level of service that will be a model for law enforcement agencies across the country.” 

The report comes in response to a series of high-profile incidents of violence by police in the Minneapolis area against Black citizens. These incidents include the death of George Floyd, for which former police officers Tou Thao, Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane have been found criminally guilty. Other incidents include the death of Amir Locke, who a Minneapolis police SWAT team officer killed during the execution of a no-knock warrant, and Daunte Wright, who was killed during a traffic stop by former police officer Kim Potter.

Now that the report has been released, the federal government and the city of Minneapolis have agreed to begin negotiations toward a consent decree under which a monitor will be assigned to make sure the MPD complies. Experts disagree on the overall effectiveness of police consent decrees, with some studies saying it curbs civil rights complaints and others claiming that data does not suggest an overall decline in police killings.

According to data from the Washington Post, Black Americans are killed by police much more frequently in proportion to the overall population than White Americans, with a slight, yet steady, rise over the last few years.