The DOJ report comes after the Minnesota Department of Human Rights conducted its own investigation, which determined the MPD engaged in discriminatory acts in violation of state law.
The DOJ reports Minneapolis Police officers used force disproportionately against Black and brown individuals, used unreasonable force against children, routinely fired their weapons without assessing whether or not a person was a threat, and routinely ignored the medical needs of individuals in their care.
“Our view focused on MPD as a whole, not the actions of any individual officer,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said. “The patterns and practices we observed made what happened to George Floyd possible.”
DOJ investigators cited numerous occasions when MPD officers used unjust and unreasonable force, including a plain-clothes officer drawing his gun and slamming a teen into a car for not paying for a burrito, and former officer Mohamed Noor shooting and killing Justine Damond in 2017 because she had “spooked” him when she approached his squad car. Damond had called the police to report a possible sexual assault in a nearby alley.
Garland said that the DOJ has reason to believe the MPD and the city of Minneapolis repeatedly violated the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Title Six of the Civil Rights Act by continually discriminating against Black and Native American people, violating the rights of people engaging in protected speech, and discriminating against people with behavioral issues and disabilities. He said that the DOJ found that MPD stopped Black and Native American people six times more than white people in situations that did not result in an arrest or citation.
The DOJ also said the MPD routinely retaliated against members of the press, such as assaulting clearly identified journalists. Garland cited an incident in 2020 when journalists were cornered in a gas station. When a member of the press approached police with his press badge visible, police shoved his head against the ground and pepper sprayed him.
City leaders touted that they did not wait for the DOJ investigation to be released to take action. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said that the settlement with MDHR was a step towards addressing some of the many wrongs done by MPD and city officials. However, the Police Officer’s Federation of Minneapolis intervened in the settlement earlier this month.
“We have not seen [the Federation] be good faith partners in supporting other comprehensive public safety initiatives that will alleviate the burden of responsibilities and workloads on officers,” Minneapolis Councilmember Robin Wonsley said. “There’s been lots of evidence out that demonstrated that the organization is not being a good faith partner when it comes to advancing racial equity, or equity of any sort in the field of policing.”
The settlement with MDHR does not require the city or MPD to claim any culpability for violating the rights of Minnesotan residents, and communities across the city have said the settlement does not listen to their needs, as it was negotiated behind closed doors.
The DOJ will now negotiate with city officials to create a consent decree to remedy the issues outlined in the DOJ’s report. The city’s settlement agreement with the MDHR includes language that prevents it from conflicting with the federal agreement.