Civil Rights

Minnesota launches civil rights probe of state police department in hopes of bringing change

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The Minnesota Department of Human Rights hopes to change policing practices of the Minneapolis Police Department through a civil rights investigation and consent decree.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced Tuesday that the agency filed a formal human rights complaint against the department in connection with the death of George Floyd, a black man who died while an officer pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his neck.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune and the Associated Press have stories.

The probe will look at police practices over the last 10 years to determine whether the department engaged in systemic discrimination.

Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said the state hopes to reach an agreement for quick changes with city leaders before addressing long-term solutions. A consent decree could eventually be reached that could be enforced with injunctions and financial penalties.

“This is not a report,” Lucero said, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune. “This is something that will result in court action and require change.”

The Minneapolis Police Department previously agreed to changes in a federal mediation agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2003. The agreement led to changes in police policy on use of force and improvements in mental health training. But critics say the department didn’t follow through on other commitments, including discipline for officers who were the subject of multiple complaints, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement that reforms have been thwarted by police union protections and laws that limit accountability.

The officer that held Floyd down with his knee, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers have been fired in connection with the incident.

Walz said the officers “expected nothing to happen, and the reason is because nothing did happen for so many times.”

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