State of Minnesota files civil rights charge against Minneapolis Police Department

The inquiry, stemming from the death of George Floyd, will be designed to root out "systemic racism that is generations deep," Gov. Tim Walz told reporters.

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By David K. Li

The state of Minnesota launched a sweeping civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department on Tuesday, a week after a white officer is alleged to have killed a black man during an arrest, officials said.

The probe, stemming from the death of George Floyd, will be designed to root out "systemic racism that is generations deep," Gov. Tim Walz told reporters.

"The Minnesota of Department of Human Rights is filing a commissioner's charge of discrimination to launch a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department," Walz said.

"The investigation will review MPD's policies, procedures and practices over the last 10 years to determine if the department has utilized systemic discriminatory practices towards people of color."

Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said the agency served papers on the city at about 1 p.m. CT Tuesday.

Lucero said that while investigators will have subpoena power, she expects the city to be open with records and that she hopes to have findings in "several months."

"We're really hoping that this is something ... we can move very quickly on, because of shared values and goals around this issue," she said.

Full coverage of George Floyd’s death and protests around the country

The Minneapolis City Council said it would assist.

"We welcome and fully support the Minnesota Department of Human Rights' robust investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department," according to a council statement.

"We urge the state to use its full weight to hold the Minneapolis Police Department accountable for any and all abuses of power and harms to our community and stand ready to aid in this process as full partners."

The city lawmakers said their efforts to oversee the police department have "been historically constrained by the City Charter and state law," so they "welcome new tools to pursue transformational, structural changes."

Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement, "For our city to begin healing, we need to deliver justice for George Floyd and his family and enact deep, meaningful policing reforms."

Minneapolis and other cities across the nation have been swept up in mass protests against police brutality and systemic racism in the wake of Floyd's death.

"For years in Minneapolis, police chiefs and elected officials committed to change have been thwarted by police union protections and laws that severely limit accountability among police departments," Frey said.

"I welcome today's announcement because breaking through those persistent barriers, shifting the culture of policing, and addressing systemic racism will require all of us working hand-in-hand."

It was a week ago Monday when Minneapolis police responded to a call reporting that Floyd might have passed a bad $20 bill.

Four city police officers eventually handcuffed Floyd and pinned him face down on the pavement as Officer Derek Chauvin put his knee into the prone man's neck for nearly nine minutes.

All four officers were fired, and Chauvin was arrested Friday, charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Before he died, Floyd repeatedly said "I can't breathe" as passersby recorded the incident and pleaded for the officers to get off his neck.