Min­neapo­lis po­lice face civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion over Floyd’s death


MIN­NEAPO­LIS — The state of Min­nesota on Tues­day launched a civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the Min­neapo­lis Po­lice Depart­ment in hopes of forc­ing wide­spread changes fol­low­ing the death of Ge­orge Floyd, a black man who died af­ter a white of­fi­cer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for min­utes, even af­ter he stopped mov­ing.

Gov. Tim Walz and the Min­nesota Depart­ment of Hu­man Rights an­nounced the fil­ing of the for­mal com­plaint at a news con­fer­ence Tues­day af­ter­noon. The gov­er­nor and Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sioner Re­becca Lucero said they hope to reach agree­ment with the city to iden­tify short-term ways to ad­dress the po­lice depart­ment’s his­tory of racial dis­crim­i­na­tion, and use the in­ves­ti­ga­tion to find long-term solutions for sys­temic change.

Lucero said their goal is to ne­go­ti­ate a con­sent de­cree with the city that courts could en­force with in­junc­tions and fi­nan­cial penal­ties. There are prece­dents, she said, in­clud­ing a con­sent de­cree ap­proved in Chicago last year af­ter the U.S. Jus­tice Depart­ment found a long his­tory of racial bias and ex­ces­sive use of force by po­lice.

Widely seen by­stander video show­ing Floyd’s death has sparked some­times vi­o­lent protests around the world. The of­fi­cer, Derek Chau­vin, has been fired and charged with third-de­gree mur­der and sec­ond-de­gree man­slaugh­ter. Three other of­fi­cers in­volved were fired but have not been charged.

“We know that deeply seated is­sues ex­ist,” the gov­er­nor said. “And the rea­son I know it is we saw the casual na­ture of the eras­ing of Ge­orge Floyd’s life and hu­man­ity. We also know by the re­ac­tion of the com­mu­nity. They ex­pected noth­ing to hap­pen, and the rea­son is be­cause noth­ing did hap­pen for so many times.”

Walz said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the po­lice depart­ment’s poli­cies, pro­ce­dures and prac­tices over the past 10 years will de­ter­mine if the force has en­gaged in sys­temic dis­crim­i­na­tion to­ward peo­ple of color, and root it out. Lucero will lead the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

All 12 mem­bers of the Min­neapo­lis City Coun­cil en­dorsed a state­ment read by Coun­cil Pres­i­dent Lisa Ben­der at a news con­fer­ence later Tues­day in sup­port of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“We urge the state to use its full weight to hold the Min­neapo­lis Po­lice Depart­ment ac­count­able for any and all abuses of power and harms to our com­mu­nity and stand ready to aid in this process as full part­ners,” the coun­cil said.

Mayor Ja­cob Frey said the state’s in­ter­ven­tion will help break what he called a stale­mate on re­form.

“For years in Min­neapo­lis, po­lice chiefs and elected of­fi­cials com­mit­ted to change have been thwarted by po­lice union pro­tec­tions and laws that se­verely limit ac­count­abil­ity among po­lice de­part­ments,” Frey said in a state­ment. “I wel­come to­day’s an­nounce­ment be­cause break­ing through those per­sis­tent bar­ri­ers, shift­ing the cul­ture of polic­ing, and ad­dress­ing sys­temic racism will re­quire all of us work­ing hand in hand.”

A po­lice depart­ment spokesman and the pres­i­dent of the of­fi­cers’ union didn’t im­me­di­ately re­spond to re­quests for com­ment.

The FBI is also in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether po­lice will­fully de­prived Floyd of his civil rights.

The Min­neapo­lis Po­lice Depart­ment has faced decades of al­le­ga­tions of bru­tal­ity and other dis­crim­i­na­tion against African Amer­i­cans and other mi­nori­ties, even within the depart­ment it­self. Crit­ics say its cul­ture re­sists change, de­spite the el­e­va­tion of Medaria Ar­radondo as its first black po­lice chief in 2017.

Ear­lier Tues­day, an at­tor­ney for Floyd’s fam­ily again de­cried the of­fi­cial au­topsy that found his death was caused by car­diac ar­rest as po­lice re­strained him and com­pressed his neck. The med­i­cal ex­am­iner also listed fen­tanyl in­tox­i­ca­tion and re­cent metham­phetamine use, but not as the cause of death.

A sep­a­rate au­topsy com­mis­sioned for Floyd’s fam­ily con­cluded that he died of as­phyx­i­a­tion due to neck and back com­pres­sion.

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