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DOJ To Investigate Minneapolis Police For Possible Patterns Of Excessive Force

Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about a jurys verdict in the case against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, at the Department of Justice on April 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks about a jurys verdict in the case against former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd, at the Department of Justice on April 21, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ANDREW HARNIK/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

One day after a jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on murder charges, the U.S. Justice Department launched an investigation into possible patterns of discrimination and excessive force among the police department there.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the new civil inquiry on Wednesday, the first such "pattern or practice" investigation in the Biden administration, which has pledged to build trust between police and communities.

"Today, I am announcing that the Justice Department has opened a civil investigation to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing," he said in remarks at the Justice Department.

He said the investigation is separate from the previously announced federal criminal inquiry into George Floyd's death.

"Yesterday's verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis," Garland said.

He said the investigation will look at the use of excessive force, including during protests, and examine the MPD's accountability systems.

"If the Justice Department concludes that there's reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, we will issue a public report of our conclusions," he said.

The investigation marks a return to increased federal oversight of errant police departments, with a tool the Trump administration used just once in the past four years to examine a small force in Massachusetts. By contrast, during the Obama years, the Justice Department conducted more than two dozen pattern or practice investigations.

Last week, Garland revoked a Trump-era memo that made it more difficult for the Justice Department's civil rights lawyers to reach consent decrees with state and local governments over policing practices and to seek court approval for independent monitors to check whether police departments were honoring the terms of settlements.
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jonese Franklin is the WFPL Program Director and host of All Things Considered. Email Jonese at jfranklin@lpm.org.