“The challenges we face are deeply woven into our history. They did not arise today, or last year; building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us,” Garland said at Justice Department headquarters. “But we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.”
The broad federal civil investigation will be to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department has “a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” he announced. It will include a “comprehensive review” of the department’s “policies, training, supervision and use of force investigations.”
It will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department uses excessive force, including during protests, or engages in “discriminatory conduct,” and if “its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful,” Garland said.
Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison for second-degree murder, up to 25 years for third-degree murder and up to 10 years for manslaughter. Three other officers facing charges in Floyd’s death– Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — are expected to go on trial in August.
The civil investigation will be handled by the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota, Garland said.
Press release and public announcements
One element of the civil investigation could focus on the issuing of the initial Minneapolis Police Department press release regarding the Floyd death, which was not an accurate description of the arrest, according to officials familiar with the matter.
Justice Department investigators will consider whether the Minneapolis Police Department has a larger pattern of misrepresenting interactions with the community, the officials said.
In his announcement, Garland said the Justice Department will also review the department’s “systems of accountability,” which include “complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition and discipline.”
The Justice Department has already begun reaching out to community groups and members of the public about their experiences with Minneapolis police, he said.
Garland acknowledged that police officers have “difficult jobs,” but added, “I strongly believe that good officers do not want to work in systems that allow bad practices. Good officers welcome accountability.”
In statements Wednesday, both the Minneapolis City Council and Mayor Jacob Frey welcomed the Justice Department’s investigation.
Calls for policing reform
Floyd’s death ignited a year of protests and reckoning about US policing, with Democratic and progressive calls to reform the system.
Garland at the time said the Justice Department’s efforts would include using grants to help police departments around the country “improve their practices through funding and technical assistance, leverage to promote policing policies that benefit communities and enhance trust.”
This story has been updated with additional details.