The US Justice Department is opening a sweeping investigation into policing practices in Minneapolis after a former officer was convicted in the killing of George Floyd there.
US Attorney General Merrick Garland said the probe would look whether the police department engages in a pattern of excessive force, among other issues.
The announcement comes a day after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s death last May, setting off a wave of relief but also sadness across the country.
Chauvin was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes during an arrest. Floyd, an unarmed African American, was pronounced dead an hour later.
The footage sparked protests across the country, and calls for police reformation.
The Justice Department is already investigating whether Chauvin and the other officers involved in Floyd’s death violated his civil rights.
“Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” Garland said.
The investigation is known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be a more sweeping probe of the entire police department and may result in major changes to policing there.
It will examine practices used by police, including use of force and force used during protests, and whether the department engages in discriminatory practices. It will also look into the department’s handling of misconduct allegations and its treatment of people with behavioral health issues and will assess the department’s current systems of accountability, Garland said.
The decision to announce a sweeping Justice Department investigation comes as President Joe Biden has promised his administration would not rest following the jury’s verdict in the case. In a Tuesday evening speech, he said much more needed to be done.
“‘I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Biden said. “We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away.”