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DOJ: Rampant Violence, Racism in Minneapolis PD Led to George Floyd’s Murder

These patterns represent a litany of violations of the public’s constitutional rights, the report finds.

Law enforcement officers amass along Lake Street in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 29, 2020.

The Department of Justice has released a scathing, 89-page report of the Minneapolis Police Department conducted after the police murder of George Floyd, shedding light on the culture of unlawful police violence and rampant racism that laid the groundwork for Floyd’s murder three years ago.

The report, released Friday, finds that the Minneapolis Police Department, referred to as MPD in the report, has “systemic problems” and that officers regularly endanger the public and unlawfully deprive people of their rights. The report then cites officers’ use of excessive force, racism against Black and Native American people, discrimination against those needing help in calls for mental health assistance, and violations of the rights of protesters and those engaged in protected speech.

“For years, MPD used dangerous techniques and weapons against people who committed at most a petty offense and sometimes no offense at all,” the report says.

“MPD used force to punish people who made officers angry or criticized the police. MPD patrolled neighborhoods differently based on their racial composition and discriminated based on race when searching, handcuffing, or using force against people during stops. The City sent MPD officers to behavioral health-related 911 calls, even when a law enforcement response was not appropriate or necessary, sometimes with tragic results,” the report continues.

These patterns represent a litany of violations of the public’s constitutional rights, the report finds.

These problems are evident at nearly every step of MPD’s system of law enforcement, from police training and supervision to enforcement and accountability, the report found. These findings were gathered based on evidence from documents, body camera footage, incident files, ride-alongs with officers and other city staff and residents, and more.

The report is incredibly damning and reinforces what abolitionist activists have long said about policing in the U.S.: that violence and racist repression are not limited to the mindset of individual police officers, but rather are a built-in feature of the law enforcement system.

MPD officers regularly use excessive force, “often when no force is necessary,” and “often forg[o] meaningful de-escalation tactics” in order to extract compliance and subdue people, which is illegal, the DOJ found.

Officials reviewed several cases in which MPD used deadly force in which there wasn’t even an apparent threat. In 2017, an MPD officer shot through an open car window and killed an unarmed woman who had called 911 to report a possible sexual assault when she approached their squad car. Once, an officer fired his gun at a car full of six people who were being instructed by police to turn around after the car backed into his squad car. Another time, a man who was a suspect in a shooting was stabbing himself in the neck in an interrogation room in the police station. When apprehended by two officers, they shot at him four times, hitting him twice, while he had his hands in the air.

The report also documents MPD officers’ habit of using neck restraints, similarly to how ex-MPD officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd. Officers used neck restraints in at least 198 encounters between January 2016 and August 2022, and the majority of these restraints were “unreasonable,” the DOJ found. In 44 of these encounters, police didn’t even make an arrest.

The DOJ reviewed one instance in which police officers confronted a Black 14-year-old boy in response to a call from a mother who said her children assaulted her. The boy was lying on the floor playing with his phone and moved away when police stepped forward to arrest him. In response, Derek Chauvin, who was one of the officers responding to the call, repeatedly struck the child in the head with a flashlight, pinned him to the wall by his throat, and proceeded to kneel on his back or neck for over 15 minutes.

The teenager survived, but MPD leadership didn’t even know that the incident had happened until Chauvin murdered Floyd three years later.

The report further details a number of violent and reckless patterns of behavior by MPD officers, including the excessive use of tasers, the use of force against people who are restrained, continual failure to administer medical aid to people in custody, and the frequent use of pepper spray, which the police used especially frequently to repress the uprisings against police brutality that sprung up in response to Floyd’s murder in 2020.

The report also details the rampant racism of MPD. Officers stop Black and Native American people in traffic stops with disproportionate frequency, the report finds: Adjusted for the share of the population, for every one white person stopped between November 2016 and August 2022, MPD stopped seven Black people and eight Native Americans.

This gap increases substantially when considering the rates of the use of force; for every one white person who experienced some form of force from MPD between January 2016 and August 2022, nine Black people and 14 Native American people were subject to force.

After scrutiny of MPD increased substantially immediately following Floyd’s death, a large portion of the police stopped collecting race data in reports, the report finds. Before Floyd was murdered on May 25, 2020, about 71 percent of daily reports had race data included. Immediately after, this decreased to 35 percent.

Interviews with MPD officers and community members unveiled a number of overtly racist remarks, including one officer who allegedly said that police “are going to make sure you and all of the Black Lives supporters are wiped off the face of the Earth,” and racist decorations on a Christmas tree in the lobby of one precinct.

These violations only continued when people rose up in protest against these very behaviors, and the report details four different violations of the First Amendment just from their actions against protesters and journalists documenting protests. During the George Floyd protests in 2020, the report documents one officer saying “You hit him! Nice!” to a fellow officer who hit fleeing protesters with rubber bullets.

Another time, in response to a call about a disturbance by a college party, police put a 19-year-old in a neck restraint and pulled him into the police car after the teenager said “fuck the police” as he walked past two officers. “Hopefully you can tell your friends when you say, ‘Fuck the police,’ now you understand that’s actually not legal unless you’re in a riot or a display of protest,” the officer said, outright lying about the protections provided under the First Amendment while purporting to enforce the law.

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