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Attorney General Merrick B. Garland Delivers Remarks on Justice Department Findings of Civil Rights Violations by the Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis


Minneapolis, MN
United States

Remarks as Delivered

Good morning, everyone.

Here with me today are Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke, and First Assistant United States Attorney Ann Bildtsen.

I also want to acknowledge Mayor Jacob Frey, Council President Andrea Jenkins, Community Safety Commissioner Cedric Alexander, and Police Chief Brian O’Hara. Thank you all for joining us today.

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed at the hands of a law enforcement officer who was sworn to protect him. As Mr. Floyd died, other officers failed to intervene.

The Justice Department has since convicted four former Minneapolis police officers for their roles in the death of George Floyd.

As I told George Floyd’s family this morning, his death has had an irrevocable impact on the Minneapolis community, on our country, and on the world. His loss is still felt deeply by those who loved and knew him, and by many who did not. George Floyd should be alive today.

Shortly after I was sworn in as Attorney General, I announced that the Justice Department had opened a separate civil investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department – the MPD – and the City of Minneapolis engage in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing.

I am here today to announce the findings of that investigation. I am also announcing that the Justice Department, the City of Minneapolis, and the MPD have agreed in principle to negotiate towards a consent decree.

Since opening the investigation, the Justice Department has engaged in a comprehensive review of MPD’s policies, training, supervision, and use-of-force investigations.

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. But the patterns and practices we observed made what happened to George Floyd possible.

As one city leader told us, “these systemic issues didn’t just occur on May 25, 2020…there were instances like that, that were being reported by this community long before that.”

The Department of Justice has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that the Minneapolis Police Department and the City of Minneapolis engaged in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the United States Constitution. There is also reasonable cause to believe that they engage in conduct that violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Safe Streets Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Specifically, we found that MPD and the City of Minneapolis engages in a pattern or practice of:

  • Using excessive force;
  • Unlawfully discriminating against Black and Native American people in enforcement activities;
  • Violating the rights of people engaged in protected speech; and
  • Discriminating against people with behavioral disabilities when responding to them in crisis.

I will discuss each finding in somewhat greater detail.

First, we found that the Minneapolis Police Department routinely uses excessive force, often when no force is necessary, including unjust deathly force and unreasonable use of tasers. MPD officers discharge firearms at people without assessing whether the person presents any threat, let alone a threat that would justify deadly force.

For example, in 2017, an MPD officer shot and killed an unarmed woman who he said had “spooked” him when she approached his squad car. The woman had called 911 – 9-1-1, sorry – to report a possible sexual assault in a nearby alley.

We also found that MPD officers routinely disregard the safety of people in their custody. Our review found numerous incidents in which MPD officers responded to a person’s statement that they could not breathe with a version of: “You can breathe, you’re talking right now.”

We also found that MPD officers fail to intervene to prevent unreasonable use of force by other officers. Indeed, as outlined in our report, years before he killed George Floyd, Derek Chauvin used excessive force on other occasions in which multiple MPD officers stood by and did not stop him.

Second, we found that MPD unlawfully discriminates against Black and Native American people in its enforcement activities, including the use of force following stops. Based on our review of the data, MPD officers stop, search, and then use force against people who are Black and Native American at disproportionate rates.

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 arrest or citation, given their shares of the population.

We found several incidents in which MPD officers were not held accountable for racist conduct until there was a public outcry. For example, after MPD officers stopped a car carrying four Somali-American teens, one officer told the teens: “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.” As everyone no doubt knows, this is a reference to the 1990s raid by American special forces in Mogadishu.

Such conduct is deeply disturbing, and it erodes the community’s trust in law enforcement.

Third, we found that MPD violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech, including by retaliating against protesters as well as members of the press.

For example, on May 30, 2020, MPD officers encountered journalists who were sheltering at a gas station. One officer approached a journalist who was filming, while holding up his press credential and shouting, “I’m press!” The officer forcefully pushed the journalist’s head to the pavement. And when the journalist held up his press credential again, an MPD sergeant pepper-sprayed him in the face and walked away.

Fourth, we found that MPD, along with the city, discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to calls for assistance. Assistant Attorney General Clarke will discuss these findings in further detail.

To the credit of MPD and city leaders, some important changes have already been instituted. Those include prohibiting all types of neck restraints and banning no-knock search warrants.

But as the report outlines, there is more work to be done. The Justice Department is recommending 28 remedial measures that provide a starting framework to improve public safety, build community trust, and comply with the Constitution and federal law.

As I noted at the outset, in an important step toward reform, the City of Minneapolis and MPD have signed an Agreement in Principle with the Department of Justice. This agreement commits the city and MPD to work with the Justice Department, the community, police officers, and other stakeholders to address the problems that we have identified. And this agreement commits all parties to the negotiation – to negotiate a legally binding consent decree with an independent monitor.

We are grateful to city and MPD leaders for their shared commitment to addressing these deep-seated challenges.

I also want to take this opportunity to address the officers of the Minneapolis Police Department.

Your profession is essential.

The work you do on a daily basis is extremely difficult and often very dangerous.

Your responsibilities are enormous and could not be more important. You are asked to keep your community safe, to uphold the rule of law, and to ensure equal justice under law.

For you to succeed, your police department must provide you with clear policies and consistent training that explain and re-enforce constitutional boundaries and responsibilities. It must give you the support you need to do your jobs safely and effectively. And its supervisors and chain-of-command must enable you to achieve the highest professional standards.

This agreement is an important step toward providing you with the support and resources you need to do your job effectively and lawfully.

And finally, to the people of Minneapolis: thank you for your partnership throughout our review process.

During the investigation, the Justice Department met with many community members, including people who had encounters with police, religious leaders, advocates, and many others who want a police department that serves them better.

We also met with the families of people who died or suffered grave injuries during encounters with MPD officers. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. We could not have completed this investigation without your contributions.

Please continue to engage these issues in the months ahead. Your involvement is critical to our success.

And finally, to the career staff of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of [Minnesota] who conducted this investigation: Thank you for your work, which will make Minneapolis a better place for all of its residents.

Today, we have completed our investigation, but this is only the first step.

We look forward to working with the city and MPD to achieve meaningful and durable reform. I am now pleased to turn this over to Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.

Civil Rights
Updated June 16, 2023