U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during an event on gun control in the Rose Garden at the White House April 8, 2021 in Washington, DC.
Alex Wong | Getty Images
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday will announce that the Department of Justice is launching an investigation into the practices of the Minneapolis police department, Justice Department officials told NBC News.
The announcement will come one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted by a jury in the murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, who was killed in custody last year. Video of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd for more than nine minutes while the handcuffed man struggled to breathe sparked protests around the country.
The announcement, expected at 10 a.m. ET, was earlier reported by the Associated Press.
The Justice Department probe is known as a pattern-or-practice investigation. The Justice Department had earlier announced a separate investigation into whether Chauvin violated Floyd’s civil rights.
Pattern-or-practice investigations, the Justice Department has said, often examine “whether the police department has engaged in a pattern or practice of stops, searches, or arrests that violate the Fourth Amendment; use of excessive force; discriminatory policing; violation of the constitutional rights of criminal suspects; or violation of First Amendment rights.”
If the Justice Department concludes that a department has systematically violated the law, it can pursue a settlement with the department, often known as a consent decree, which sometimes entails independent monitoring or other reforms. The agreement must be approved by a court. Garland earlier this month rescinded a memorandum signed during former President Donald Trump’s term that limited the use of consent decrees.
In a statement issued after Chauvin’s guilty verdict was released, Garland said that while “the state’s prosecution was successful, I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death.”
Garland said in the statement that the previously announced civil rights investigation was “ongoing.”
President Joe Biden pledged after Chauvin was convicted that he would push forward on reforming the nation’s policing.
The verdict “can be a giant step forward,” Biden said. “We can’t stop here.”
House Democrats have passed police reform legislation named after Floyd. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 220-212 but has not yet received a vote in the Senate, where it is considered unlikely to pass.
The bill would limit the use of controversial police tactics like choke holds and no-knock warrants, and restrict federal qualified immunity, a legal shield that protects officers from civil suits and has been criticized for providing impunity to those who use excessive force.
Chauvin was convicted of second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Judge Peter Cahill said that he will be sentenced in eight weeks. Chauvin faces a potential sentence of several decades in prison.
This is breaking news. Check back for updates.
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