A protester holds a sign stating "Justice for George Floyd" with the Minneapolis, Minnesota skyline in the distance on November 4, 2020.

Derek Chauvin has been convicted of murdering George Floyd, but our work on police reform is still just beginning.

Luckily, we no longer have a DOJ run by a fascist or a man who even Republicans considered too racist to be a federal judge. Following Chauvin's guilty verdict, Attorney General Merrick Garland reminded us that this week's "verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis[,]" and announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, "to determine whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing."

(Transcript available here.)

And that's not all. The DOJ is also considering bringing federal charges against Chauvin — both for murdering Floyd and for beating and choking a 14-year-old Black child in 2017.


Investigating MPD

The DOJ's civil investigation

will include a comprehensive review of the Minneapolis Police Department's policies, training, supervision, and use of force investigations. It will assess the effectiveness of the MPD's current systems of accountability, and whether other mechanisms are needed to ensure constitutional and lawful policing.

Investigators will speak to members of the community and cops, review all the evidence, and come to an informed conclusion. The DOJ will "assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern-or-practice of using excessive force, including during protests" and "whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful."

If the DOJ decides there's "reasonable cause unconstitutional or unlawful policing," it will issue a public report, like the absolutely devastating report the DOJ released about policing in Ferguson, Missouri following Michael Brown's murder.

The Justice Department could also file a civil lawsuit seeking changes to the department's policies and procedures. At the press conference, Garland noted that, "Usually when the Justice Department finds unlawful practices or patterns of practices, the local police department enters into a settlement agreement or a consent decree to ensure that prompt and effective action is taken to align policing practices with the law."

Under Obama, the DOJ entered into 15 consent decrees with law enforcement agencies. Consent decrees allow the parties to settle a case while the court maintains jurisdiction, to ensure the consent decree is actually enforced. Then He Who Shall Not Be Named was elected and his DOJ banned consent decrees, because fuck civil rights. Garland rescinded Jeff Sessions' ban on entering into consent decrees for police reform just last week.

The investigation will be handled the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. Biden's nominees for the top posts in the division, civil rights attorneys Kristen Clarke and Vanita Gupta, are being considered by the Senate now. Republicans are being predictably terrible in their opposition to two WOC civil rights lawyers. Despite their Republicans' racist nonsense, Gupta's nomination advanced 51-49 this week, with Lisa Murkowski joining Dems in the vote.

Investigating Chauvin

Kneeling on the necks of Black people while they beg for air is apparently nothing new for convicted murderer Derek Chauvin. ABC News reports that, while prosecutors in Minnesota were getting ready for Chauvin's murder trial, "they received a series of videos depicting Chauvin's handling of another case three years earlier that by their own description shocked them."

These videos, from 2017, show Chauvin attacking a 14-year-old child, "striking [the] Black teenager in the head so hard that the boy needed stitches, then allegedly holding the boy down with his knee for nearly 17 minutes, and allegedly ignoring complaints from the boy that he couldn't breathe."

State prosecutors in Minnesota received the videos last year, while they were preparing for Chauvin's murder trials. One of those prosecutors, Matthew Frank, wrote in a court filing that, "Those videos show a far more violent and forceful treatment of this child than Chauvin describes in his report [of the incident]."

Judge Cahill barred prosecutors from bringing up the 2017 brutality during Chauvin's murder trial. But now, the feds are looking at bringing federal charges for both the 2017 attack and Floyd's murder.

Investigate Them All

As we all should know by now, both police brutality, in general, and violence against Black people, in particular, are nationwide epidemics, not confined to the streets of Minneapolis and Brooklyn Center.

Hopefully, the investigations into MPD and Chauvin are precursors to more investigations to come. We cannot allow police to continue to murder and brutalize people of color with no consequences.

It's a good sign that Merrick Garland is already focusing on these issues, less than two months into his term as AG. Like he said after the Chauvin verdict,

The challenges we face are deeply woven into our history, they did not arise today or last year. Building trust between community and law enforcement will take time and effort by all of us, but we undertake this task with determination and urgency, knowing that change cannot wait.


[ YouTube / Transcript / ABC News ]

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Jamie Lynn Crofts
Jamie Lynn Crofts is sick of your bullshit. When she’s not wrangling cats, she’s probably writing about nerdy legal stuff, rocking out at karaoke, or tweeting about god knows what. Jamie would kindly like to remind everyone that it’s perfectly legal to tell Bob Murray to eat shit.
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