US attorney general in Minneapolis to share results of police department probe

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is expected to announce the findings of a two-year investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, prompted by the death of George Floyd

Steve Karnowski,Jim Salter
Friday 16 June 2023 05:03 BST

The findings of a two-year investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, prompted by the death of George Floyd, are expected to be announced Friday by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.

The Department of Justice on Thursday announced a news conference “on a civil rights matter” was scheduled for Friday morning at the federal courthouse in Minneapolis. Justice Department and city officials declined to confirm about whether they will announce findings of that police department investigation.

A Justice Department advisory said Garland will be joined by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, Police Chief Brian O'Hara and others. A link to a Justice Department public webinar scheduled for Friday afternoon has the heading: “DOJ Presentation for MPD Investigative Findings.”

The “pattern or practice” investigation was launched in April 2021, a day after former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the May 25, 2020, killing of Floyd, who was Black.

Floyd repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe before going limp as Chauvin knelt on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes.

The killing was recorded by a bystander and sparked months of mass protests as part of a broader national reckoning over racial injustice.

The federal investigation concerns whether the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing. Such investigations typically look at the use of force by officers, including force used during protests, and whether the department engages in discriminatory practices. The investigation also was expected to assess the way the department handled misconduct allegations and how it held officers accountable.

A similar investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights led to a “court-enforceable settlement agreement” to address the long list of problems identified in the report, with input from residents, officers, city staff and others. Frey and state Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero signed the agreement in March.

The state investigation, which concluded in April 2022, found “significant racial disparities with respect to officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests.” And it criticized "an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity.”

Lucero said the legally binding agreement requires the city and the police department to make “transformational changes” to fix the organizational culture of the force, noting it could serve as a model for how cities, police departments and community members elsewhere work to stop race-based policing.

The federal investigation could prompt a separate but similar court-enforceable agreement, known as a consent decree, that would overlap the settlement with the state. Several police departments in other cities, such as Seattle, operate under consent decrees for alleged civil rights violations.

Floyd, 46, was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car, and though he was already handcuffed, they forced him on the ground. As Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck, J. Alexander Kueng held Floyd’s back, Thomas Lane held Floyd’s feet and Tou Thao kept bystanders back.

Chauvin was sentenced to 22 1/2 years for murder. He also pleaded guilty to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and was sentenced to 21 years in that case. He is serving the sentences concurrently at the Federal Correctional Institution in Tucson, Arizona.

Kueng, Lane and Thao were convicted of federal charges in February 2022. All three were convicted of depriving Floyd of his right to medical care, and Thao and Kueng also were convicted of failing to intervene to stop Chauvin during the killing. Lane and Kueng have since pleaded guilty to a state count of aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. In exchange, counts of aiding and abetting murder were dropped.

Lane, who is white, is serving his 2 1/2-year federal sentence at a facility in Colorado. He is serving a three-year state sentence at the same time. Kueng, who is Black, is serving a three-year federal sentence in Ohio, while also serving a 3 1/2-year state sentence.

Thao, who is Hmong American, received a 3 1/2-year federal sentence. In May, the judge in the state case found him guilty of aiding and abetting manslaughter. Thao had said it “would be lying” to have pleaded guilty and he agreed to let the judge decide the case. The judge set sentencing for Aug. 7.

___ Salter reported from O'Fallon, Missouri.


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