The Minneapolis police were harshly criticized by the Justice Department on Friday, stating that they had engaged in systematic racial discrimination against minorities, routinely violated constitutional rights, and neglected the safety of those held in custody for years prior to the death of George Floyd.
The study, the outcome of a thorough two-year investigation, supported many of the community complaints about police behavior that surfaced after Floyd’s death in 2020. According to the study, Minneapolis police officers used excessive force, including “unjustified deadly force,” and they also infringed on the rights of those who were free speech constitutionally protected individuals.
Additionally, the study found that the city and the police had discriminated against persons of color, Native Americans, and individuals with “behavioural health disabilities.”
“We observed many MPD officers who did their difficult work with professionalism, courage and respect,” Attorney General Merrick Garland told a news conference in Minneapolis. “But the patterns and practices we observed made what happened to George Floyd possible.”
Garland said that officers habitually neglected the security of those who were detained, citing multiple instances in which someone complained that they were having trouble breathing only to have officers respond, in part, “You can breathe. You’re talking right now.”
Police “used dangerous techniques and weapons against people who committed at most a petty offense and sometimes no offense at all,” the report said. Officers “used force to punish people who made officers angry or criticized the police.”
Police also “patrolled neighborhoods differently based on their racial composition and discriminated based on race when searching, handcuffing or using force against people during stops,” according to the report.
The probe led to an agreement between the city and the police department known as a federal consent decree, which stipulates that reforms must be authorized by a federal judge and monitored by an outside party. This setup is comparable to reform initiatives in Ferguson, Missouri, Baltimore, Seattle, and New Orleans.
Police Chief Brian O’Hara said his agency was committed to creating “the kind of police department that every Minneapolis resident deserves.”
Jacob Frey, the mayor, acknowledged the task at hand.
“We understand that change is non-negotiable,” Frey said. “Progress can be painful, and the obstacles can be great. But we haven’t let up in the three years since the murder of George Floyd.”
The damning study was a reflection of Garland’s national efforts to promote policing and civil rights. Similar inquiries into police agencies have been conducted, among other cities, in Memphis, Louisville, Phoenix, and other cities.
A day after former officer Derek Chauvin, a white man, was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in the shooting death of Floyd, a Black man, the Minneapolis inquiry was opened.
Chauvin slammed his knee into Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd continuously cried out that he couldn’t breathe before becoming limp. A witness to the murder captured it on camera, and it led to months of widespread protests as part of a larger national discussion about racial injustice.
When the Justice Department looked back at police procedures from 2016, it discovered that sometimes officers fired at people before determining whether there was an immediate threat.
From January 1, 2016, to August 16, 2022, police employed neck restraints similar to the one Chauvin applied to Floyd around 200 times, including 44 instances where no arrest was necessary. Following Floyd’s death, neck restraints were outlawed, but some police still used them, according to the study.
According to the analysis, black and native American drivers in Minneapolis are stopped at rates of 6.5 and 7.9 times, respectively, compared to white drivers. The research also showed that police frequently responded against demonstrators and journalists who covered protests.
When responding to 911 calls involving behavioral health, the city deployed officers “even when a law enforcement response was not appropriate or necessary, sometimes with tragic results,” the report states.
The report stated that the conclusions were reached after reviewing records, body camera recordings, statistics provided by the city and police, rides with officers, interactions with people, and more.
According to the study, officers are no longer allowed to use neck restraints similar to the one that killed Floyd. Some crowd control tools are no longer permitted to be used by officers without the chief’s approval. Amir Locke’s death in 2022 led to the outlawing of “no-knock” warrants.
The city has also started a program in which qualified mental health specialists, rather than police, attend to select calls.
The Justice Department is not the only organization finding issues.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights conducted a similar inquiry and discovered “significant racial disparities with respect to officers’ use of force, traffic stops, searches, citations, and arrests.” It was condemned for “an organizational culture where some officers and supervisors use racist, misogynistic, and disrespectful language with impunity.”
In preparation for the cooperation agreement, the federal report suggests 28 “remedial” actions to enhance policing. These actions, according to Garland, “provide a starting framework to improve public safety, build community trust, and comply with the Constitution and federal law.”
In order to avoid having “two different determinations of whether compliance has been met or not,” the mayor stated that municipal authorities want one monitor to oversee both the federal plan and the state accord. That’s not how you achieve clear, measurable results.
Many police departments in other cities work under consent decrees, which demand that organizations achieve certain objectives before federal control is lifted. This procedure frequently lasts for years and costs millions of dollars.
Floyd, 46, was detained on suspicion of passing a fake $20 cash at a corner store for a pack of cigarettes. Even though he was already handcuffed, the cops forced him to the ground as he resisted their attempts to place him in a squad car.
For murder, Chauvin received a sentence of 22 1/2 years. Additionally, he admitted guilt to a federal charge of violating Floyd’s civil rights and received a 21-year term as a result. In Tucson, Arizona, he is completing his prison terms.