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George Floyd Minneapolis Police
In this May 27 photo, Minneapolis police stand guard against protesters at the Third Precinct after the arrest and death of George Floyd. (AP file photo: Jim Mone)

Bar Buzz: DOJ: MPD ‘pattern or practice’ probe possible

The feds are mulling a request by three state senators to conduct a pattern-and-practice inquiry into possible misconduct by the Minneapolis Police Department after George Floyd’s death.

That is what the U.S. Department of Justice told Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, the Senate Transportation chair, and two other senators on Oct. 2. Newman relayed the information to reporters during an Oct. 13 press conference.

The requested inquiry would look for systemic abuses by the police department.

The GOP senators’ query was addressed to Assistant U.S. Attorney General Eric Dreiband and Minnesota’s U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald. It was signed by Newman and fellow senators Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, and dated June 22.

The DOJ’s reply was signed by Danielle Douglas, the agency’s acting intergovernmental and public liaison. She apologized for the department’s tardy response.

Douglas said that any pattern-or-practice investigation would be conducted by the department’s Civil Rights Special Litigation Section, which enforces the law that authorizes federal systemic police abuse investigations.

The letter says the DOJ “will carefully consider the evidence in the case” as it determines whether such an investigation would be appropriate.

“Where an investigation reveals a pattern-or-practice of such misconduct,” Douglas wrote, “the section may initiate a civil action in the name of the United States against state or local officials and seek appropriate injunctive relief.”

“That, I guess, may be best described as in a holding pattern for right now,” Newman told reporters. “But it is still under consideration.”

If the DOJ launches the investigation, it would run parallel to one MacDonald already is pursuing into the circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death. Douglas’ letter told senators that MacDonald’s investigation is ongoing and is being conducted with help from the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division and the FBI.

“The Department has made this investigation a top priority, and has assigned experienced prosecutors and FBI criminal investigators to the investigation,” Douglas wrote. “We will, at the end of that investigation, assess what federal charges may be warranted and appropriate.”

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About Kevin Featherly

Kevin Featherly, who joined BridgeTower Media in mid-2016, is a journalist and former freelance writer who has covered politics, law, business, technology and popular culture for publications and websites in the Twin Cities and nationally since the mid-1990s.

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