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The U.S. Department of Justice announcement on Wednesday (April 21) that a federal investigation would be launched into the Minneapolis Police Department’s past practices was an indication that the Biden Administration is serious about dealing with the deaths of people of color at police hands.
But it will also delve deeply into the actions, policies and behaviors in the department, which citizens have said have long been discriminatory or biased against Black people. A key focus will be police training and accountability, and how it has worked prior to the high profile shooting deaths of Black people including George Floyd, whose killer, Derek Chauvin, was convicted of murder on Tuesday (April 20).
“Officers welcome accountability because accountability is an essential part of building trust with the community and public safety requires public trust,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in remarks announcing the investigation.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has pledged to cooperate with the investigation.
“The intent of this inquiry is to reveal any deficiencies or unwanted conduct within the department and provide adequate resources and direction to correct them,” Arradondo said in a statement.
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There are three major takeaways from Garland’s announcement:
• All manners of force used by Minneapolis officers will be examined. This includes uses of force against people with mental illnesses disabilities and against people exercising First Amendment rights. Also, it will examine the department’s system of accountability and whether or not new methods of protections for city residents should be implemented. The pattern and practice investigation runs parallel to the DOJ’s investigation of Derek Chauvin himself.
“This isn’t about one officer — it’s about the whole department,” said acting Minnesota U.S. Attorney Anders Folk, adding that the process should take several months.
• The decision to run the probe effectively reverses the decision of the Trump Administration against any such investigation into police department practices, despite increasing calls to do so. In 2020, then-Attorney General Bill Barr said that he would not launch an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department’s practices. Donald Trump himself sharply criticized protests against police brutality and even issued an executive order in support of police.
“We are going to pursue what we said we will be pursuing and we will be pursuing it strongly,” Trump said at the time.
• If there is a pattern of wrongdoing, the Justice Department will issue a report to the public. The agency will then collaborate with the Minneapolis Police Department, with community input to fix the specific areas where problems exist. However, if the DOJ and the department cannot agree on changes, then the agency can file a lawsuit to force the changes through.
The Minneapolis City Council all agreed with the investigation and signed a statement giving their support.
“The City Council’s oversight of the Minneapolis Police Department has been historically constrained by the City Charter and state law and we welcome new tools to pursue transformational, structural changes to how the City provides for public safety,” the statement said.