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," Garland 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.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey told NPR he sees the inquiry as "an opportunity to continue working towards that deep change and accountability that we know that we need in the Minneapolis Police Department, and so to the extent the DOJ can help with that we very much welcome."
"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 Minneapolis Police Department'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 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.