Minneapolis, Minnesota, Apr 21 (EFE).- The US Department of Justice on Wednesday announced that it has opened a civil investigation into the legality of practices used by the Minneapolis Police Department, one day after former city police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering African American George Floyd.
“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, unlawful policing,” said US Attorney General Merrick Garland.
The launching of the probe comes after a Minneapolis jury found Chauvin guilty on all three murder and manslaughter counts facing him for asphyxiating Floyd to death last May.
“I know such wounds have deep roots, Garland said. “And that too many communities have experienced those wounds, firsthand. Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address, potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis,” said Garland, adding that the new civil investigation is separate from and independent of the federal criminal investigation into Floyd’s death already announced by the DOJ.
The AG also said that the Justice Department “has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit” and that when the DOJ “finds unlawful … patterns or practices, the local police department enters into a settlement agreement or a consent decree to ensure that prompt and effective action is taken to align policing practices with the law.”
Garland admitted that Chauvin’s conviction does not deal with potential systemic police problems and so the DOJ investigation will review whether excessive force, discrimination or other abuses are occurring.
He said that the investigators will speak with members of the community to learn more about their interactions with the police and with members of the police force themselves about the training they receive, declaring that the views of both groups are essential.
The indignation of the Minneapolis African American community after Floyd’s death sparked a wave of protests across the US and the world in the following weeks, with disturbances erupting in multiple US cities against police violence against blacks.
That frustration translated into a call from more liberal sectors to “defund” the police in the US and replacing law enforcement authorities with a broader system including psychologists and social workers.
The announcement of the investigation comes just a day after the guilty verdicts were handed down against Chauvin, who is now facing up to 40 years behind bars.
Given that he has no previous criminal record, however, the former officer may only wind up serving 12-and-a-half years in prison for two of the charges and four years for the third.