Minn. Police Face Civil Rights Probe 06/03 06:23
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.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- 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
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
"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
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
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights enforces the state's human rights
act, particularly as it applies to discrimination in employment, housing,
education, public accommodations and public services. Mediation is one of its
first-choice tools, but the cases it files can lead to fuller investigations
and sometimes end up in litigation.
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.
Arradondo himself was among five black officers who sued the police
department in 2007 over alleged discrimination in promotions, pay, and
discipline. They said in their lawsuit that the department had a history of
tolerating racism and discrimination. The city settled the lawsuit for $740,000.
State Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, who was neighboring St.
Paul's second black police chief, said good officers should welcome the
investigation. He co-chaired a working group with Attorney General Keith
Ellison that reported back in February on ways to reduce police-involved deadly
"I've been a cop for 40 years. I have lived in this system that they're
talking about reforming. ... The cops I talk to, the cops I've worked with
since 1977 to date will tell you, they want change," Harrington said. "They
don't want to work in a flawed system. They don't want to have to be wearing
gas masks. They don't want to have to be on riot control duty."
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 that he
died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression.
"The cause of death was that he was starving for air. It was lack of oxygen.
And so everything else is a red herring to try to throw us off," family
attorney Ben Crump said. He said the Hennepin County medical examiner went to
great lengths to try to convince the public that what was shown on bystander
video didn't cause Floyd to die.
Ellison told ABC's "Good Morning America" that prosecutors are working as
fast as they can to determine whether more charges will be filed.