Justice Department: Minneapolis Police Guilty Of Perpetrating Unconstitutional Policing

Photos: YouTube Screenshots\Wikimedia Commons

Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department announced today that the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) and the City of Minneapolis (City) engage in a pattern or practice of conduct in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The Department also announced that the city and MPD have agreed in principle to resolve the Department’s findings through a court enforceable consent decree with an independent monitor, rather than through contested litigation.

Specifically, the Justice Department finds that the MPD:

  • Uses excessive force, including unjustified deadly force and unreasonable use of tasers;
  • Unlawfully discriminates against Black people and Native American people in its enforcement activities, including the use of force following stops;
  • Violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech; and
  • Along with the city, discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to calls for assistance.

The Department identified and concluded that persistent deficiencies in policy, training, supervision, and accountability contribute to the unlawful conduct.

George Floyd’s death had an irrevocable impact on his family, on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “The patterns and practices of conduct the Justice Department observed during our investigation are deeply disturbing. They erode the community’s trust in law enforcement. And they made what happened to George Floyd possible. Today, we have completed our investigation, but this is only the first step. We will continue to work with the city and the MPD toward ensuring that MPD officers have the support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively and lawfully as we work together toward meaningful and durable reform.”

“I know this community is still hurting and that today’s announcement may also open up old wounds,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “The Justice Department is committed to working with Minneapolis on a path forward, to constitutional policing, and stronger police-community trust. Together we can build a Minneapolis that protects the rights, safety, and dignity of all.”

“Every American deserves policing that is fair, equitable, and non-discriminatory,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “The protests that unfolded across Minneapolis, and the country, underscore the urgency behind our efforts to ensure that police departments respect constitutional rights, while garnering public trust. We will stand by the people of Minneapolis as we work to institute reforms that are lasting and enduring.”

“These findings present a sobering picture of a flawed system – but today we turn towards change through justice,” said First Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann Bildtsen for the District of Minnesota. “This thorough investigation is the foundation to make fair and lawful policing a reality for our entire community.”

The city and MPD cooperated fully with the Justice Department’s investigation. The Department provided a comprehensive written report of its investigative findings to the city and MPD. The report acknowledges the changes already made by the city and MPD, and it identifies additional remedial measures that the Department believes are necessary to fully address its findings.

The Department opened this investigation on April 21, 2021. The investigation was conducted by career attorneys and staff in the Civil Rights Division’s Special Litigation Section and the Civil Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota. The team conducted numerous onsite tours of MPD facilities; interviewed MPD officers, supervisors, and command staff; spoke with city officials and employees; accompanied behavioral crisis responders and officers on ride-alongs; reviewed thousands of documents; and watched thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage. Department attorneys and staff also met with community members, advocates, service providers, and other stakeholders in the Minneapolis area.

The Department conducted this investigation pursuant to 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (Section 12601), which prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law, the Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The findings announced today are the result of the Department’s civil pattern or practice investigation and are separate from the Department’s criminal cases against former MPD officers for federal crimes related to the death of George Floyd.

The Department will reach out to members of the Minneapolis community for input on remedies to address the Department’s findings. Individuals may also submit recommendations by email at [email protected] or by phone at 1-866-432-0268.

This is one of eight investigations into law enforcement agencies opened during this Administration by the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department under Section 12601.

The Department has ongoing investigations into the Phoenix Police Department; the Mount Vernon Police Department; the Louisiana State Police; the New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Division; the Worcester Police Department; and the Oklahoma City Police Department.

The Department has issued Section 12601 findings reports in the past year regarding the Louisville Metro Police Department, as well as the Orange County District Attorney’s Office and Sheriff’s Department.

Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. Additional information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota is available at www.justice.gov/usao-mn.

Information specific to the Civil Rights Division’s Police Reform Work can be found here: www.justice.gov/crt/file/922421/download.

The Justice Department will hold a virtual presentation on the findings at 5:00 p.m. CT. Members of the public are encouraged to attend to learn more about the findings. Please join the meeting here.

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