ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A state investigation launched after George Floyd’s killing in the custody of four Minneapolis police officers has determined that the department engages in a pattern of race discrimination.
Minnesota’s Department of Human Rights announced the finding of the nearly two-year probe on Wednesday. The department has the power to enforce the state’s Human Rights Act, which makes it illegal for police departments to discriminate against someone due to their race.
The state launched its investigation barely a week after Floyd’s death on May 25, 2020. Then-Officer Derek Chauvin used his knee to pin the Black man to the pavement for 9 1/2 minutes in a case that sparked protests around the world against police racism and brutality. Chauvin, who is white, was convicted last spring of murder. Three other officers — Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng — were convicted this year of violating Floyd’s civil rights in a federal trial and they face a state trial starting in June.
Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said then that the state hoped to use the investigation to find long-term solutions for systemic change. She said the goal was to negotiate a consent decree with the city that courts could enforce with injunctions and financial penalties, citing such agreements in over a dozen other cities including Chicago, where the U.S. Justice Department found a long history of racial bias and excessive use of force by police.
The department quickly won a court order in which the city agreed to make immediate changes, including banning chokeholds and requiring officers to intervene when they see another officer using inappropriate force.
Since then, state investigators have been reviewing a decade’s worth of information, including data on traffic stops, searches, arrests and uses of force, and examined policies and training. They also invited citizens to submit their own stories of encounters with Minneapolis police.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights is the state’s civil rights enforcement agency. Its duties include enforcing the Minnesota Human Rights Act which, among other things, makes it illegal for a police department to discriminate against someone because of their race.
The department has come under pressure from multiple directions since Floyd’s death. The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating Minneapolis policing practices, though it is not thought to be close to a conclusion.
Several City Council members and residents have pushed to replace the department with a new public safety unit that they argue could take a more comprehensive public health approach to policing, including dropping a required minimum number of police officers. Voters rejected the idea last year.
Mayor Jacob Frey and Chief Medaria Arradondo, before his retirement in January, also made a range of changes in department policies and practices, including requiring officers to document their attempts to de-escalate situations, and no longer stopping motorists for minor traffic violations.
But community anger at police flared anew in February when police officers serving a no-knock warrant shot and killed Amir Locke, a 22-year-old Black man who was staying on a couch in his cousin’s apartment. Prosecutors declined to charge the officer who shot Locke, saying body camera video showed him pointing a gun at the officer, a claim his family disputed. The city has since banned no-knock warrants except in the most extreme circumstances, such as a hostage situation.