History of unlawful policing in Minneapolis made George Floyd’s death ‘possible’: DOJ

George Floyd Minneapolis Police
Attorney General Merrick Garland talks about a Department of Justice report that found the Minneapolis Police Department has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination during a news conference, Friday, June 16, 2023, in Minneapolis. The two-year probe found that Minneapolis officers used excessive force, including “unjustified deadly force,” and violated the rights of people engaged in constitutionally protected speech. (AP Photo/Abbie Parr) Abbie Parr/AP

History of unlawful policing in Minneapolis made George Floyd’s death ‘possible’: DOJ

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Patterns and practices” of excessive force and unlawful policing within the Minneapolis Police Department “made what happened to George Floyd possible,” Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Friday at the conclusion of the two-year-old federal investigation.

Garland had announced in April 2021 the Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation to determine whether the police department engaged in “unconstitutional or unlawful policing.” The opening of the DOJ investigation came the day after now-former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter for his role in the death of Floyd while in police custody in May 2020. Chauvin was sentenced to over 22 years in prison.

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Garland said Friday during remarks in Minneapolis that the Justice Department, the city of Minneapolis, and the Minneapolis Police Department “have agreed in principle to negotiate towards a consent decree” — which would be a court-enforceable agreement to resolve problems with policing in the city.

“The Department of Justice has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Minneapolis Police Department and the city of Minneapolis engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution,” Garland said Friday. “There is also reasonable cause to believe that they engaged in conduct that violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Safe Streets Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

Garland added that “we found that the MPD and the city of Minneapolis engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, unlawfully discriminating against black and Native American people in enforcement activities, violating the rights of people engaged in protected speech, and discriminating against people with behavioral disabilities when responding to them in crisis.”

The Biden attorney general said that “as I told George Floyd’s family this morning, his death has had an irrevocable impact on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world.”

Minneapolis police placed Floyd under arrest for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill at a gas station when buying cigarettes. Floyd resisted police when they tried to place him into a police car, and they forced him down to the ground while handcuffed, where Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes.

The Minneapolis medical examiner ruled that George Floyd’s “cause of death” was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression” and that the “manner of death” was a “homicide.”

Chauvin’s attorney, Eric Nelson, unsuccessfully argued to jurors that Floyd’s death was due to a toxic combination of fentanyl and a preexisting heart condition.

Rioting in Minneapolis in the wake of Floyd’s death resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Protesters confronted police officers outside of the Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct in late May 2020 before the building was set ablaze. The protests spread from Minnesota to dozens of cities across the country.

Footage of the incident set off a wave of outrage, leading to protests in major cities across the nation, some of which became violent as protesters rioted, looted stores, destroyed property, burned buildings, and clashed with police.

Republicans have repeatedly raised concerns the Justice Department has not put the same effort into prosecutions tied to the summer riots of 2020 as the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. The GOP has pointed to nationwide rioting and attacks on federal courthouses and police following Floyd’s death.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Rick Scott (R-FL), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) previously told Garland that DOJ’s “apparent unwillingness” to punish 2020 rioters “stands in stark contrast to the harsher treatment” of the Capitol rioters.

Judge Trevor McFadden, a Trump appointee, said in 2021 that “the U.S. attorney’s office would have more credibility if it was even-handed in its concern about riots and mobs in the city” during one Capitol riot sentencing hearing, and argued in another ruling that there was a “troubling theme” in how prosecutors handled Portland riot cases compared to Capitol riot ones.

Then-Attorney General William Barr had also announced in late May 2020 that, separate from any state-level charges, “on a separate and parallel track, the Department of Justice, including the FBI, are conducting an independent investigation to determine whether any federal civil rights laws were violated.”

The Justice Department announced in December 2021 that Chauvin had pleaded guilty in federal court to two violations of federal civil rights laws, with one violation related to “willfully depriving, while acting under color of law, George Floyd of his constitutional rights, resulting in Mr. Floyd’s bodily injury and death” and the other violation tied to “willfully depriving, while acting under color of law, a then 14-year-old juvenile of his constitutional rights, resulting in the juvenile’s bodily injury.”

Chauvin was sentenced in 2022 to 252 months in prison for these alleged violations of constitutional rights.

Ex-Minneapolis police officers Tou Thao and J. Alexander Kueng were found guilty in February 2022 of depriving Floyd of “his constitutional right to be free from an officer’s unreasonable force when each willfully failed to intervene to stop former MPD Officer Derek Chauvin’s use of unreasonable force, resulting in bodily injury to and the death of Mr. Floyd.”

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Thao, Kueng, and former Minneapolis police officer Thomas Lane also were found to have “deprived Mr. Floyd of his constitutional right to be free from a police officer’s deliberate indifference to his serious medical needs when they saw him restrained in police custody in clear need of medical care and willfully failed to aid him, resulting in bodily injury to and the death of Mr. Floyd.”

The city of Minneapolis previously entered into a settlement agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights earlier in 2023 after an investigation was launched into the police department in June 2020.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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