US DOJ: ‘Systemic’ police problems led to murder of George Floyd

Report details abuses against Black residents long before the May 2020 killing of Floyd captured the world’s attention.

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) has released the findings of an investigation into the police department of Minneapolis, Minnesota, concluding that the department engaged in “systemic” violations of civil rights and excessive force.

US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday shared the results of a scathing report into the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), which killed George Floyd in May 2020, setting off a wave of nationwide protests against racism and police violence.

“Our review focused on MPD as a whole, not on the actions of any individual officer. We observed many MPD officers who did their difficult work with professionalism, courage and respect,” Garland said. “But the patterns and practices we observed made what happened to George Floyd possible.”

Garland detailed a litany of alleged abusive practices within the department, including excessive use of force, violation of the civil rights, discrimination against Black and Native American residents, and targeting people engaged in journalistic and political activities.

In 2017, Garland said, an officer shot and killed an unarmed woman who had approached a police car after reporting a potential sexual assault in an alley because an officer was “spooked”.

Years before officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes, Garland said the officer, who was convicted on murder charges in 2021, had used excessive force in other instances and other officers had failed to intervene.

The report also said discrimination against Black and Native Americans included use of excessive force during traffic stops.

“The data showed, for example, that MPD stopped Black and Native American people nearly six times more often than white people in situations that did not result in arrests or citation,” Garland said.

The DOJ also found several disturbing instances of racist abuse that went unpunished by the department, including one incident in which an officer told a group of Somali teenagers: “Do you remember what happened in Black Hawk Down when we killed a bunch of your folk? I’m proud of that. We didn’t finish the job over there. If we had, you guys wouldn’t be over here right now.”

The quote is a reference to a book and film about US military intervention in Somalia in the 1990s.

Garland also said the department engaged in abuses against people involved in “protected speech”, such as protesters and members of the media.

Garland said the department has agreed in principle to a consent decree that would mandate changes to the department to address the problems detailed in the report.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies