Three Republican state senators called on U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and the Department of Justice to investigate the Minneapolis Police Department and its response to recent unrest in the city.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) announced plans to hold a series of legislative oversight hearings beginning July 1 on state and local responses to the riots.
State Sens. Scott Newman (R-Hutchinson), Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), and David Senjem (R-Rochester) asked Barr to launch a “pattern-or-practice” investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) in a letter sent Monday.
“Under these circumstances, we do not feel it is possible to protect the civil rights of the citizens of the City of Minneapolis if the Minneapolis City Council follows through with its proposed action. Further, it is apparent the State of Minnesota is not capable of conducting a fair and impartial investigation into allegations of constitutional civil rights violations by the MPD, nor does it have the subject matter expertise or wherewithal to conduct such an investigation,” states the letter.
Broadly speaking, the goal of a pattern-or-practice investigation is to “bring to light any persistent patterns of misconduct within a given police department” and release a public report on the findings. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division conducts the investigations into allegations of “serious patterns and practices of excessive force, biased policing, and other unconstitutional practices by law enforcement.”
In a press release, Senjem elaborated on what he hopes the investigation will accomplish.
“While there are many fine and dedicated police officers in the MPD, recent and past events tell us it is time the totality of the city be investigated – from city hall to the police station. Until this is complete, and needed corrections are identified and made, public confidence in the delivery of fair and equitable public safety in Minnesota’s mother city will fail to exist,” he said.
Newman said he does not believe the state Department of Human Rights has the “proper resources, staffing, and training necessary for an objective investigation.”
“The commissioner’s own comments have effectively disqualified her agency from conducting a meaningful, unbiased investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department,” he added, pointing to a recent statement from Commissioner Rebecca Lucero.
Ingebrigtsen called the recent events in Minneapolis the result of “decades of tension and dysfunction that has gone unaddressed by the mayor and city council.”
“This will allow federal investigators to follow the evidence – wherever it may lead. They will be able to speak with city and state officials, political interest groups, and the entire police department, including supervisors and rank-and-file officers,” he said.
The Department of Justice is expected to consider the request for an investigation in the coming weeks, said the press release.
During a Thursday morning press conference, Gazelka said the “public demands answers” on what happened in the Twin Cities after the death of George Floyd.
“We all witnessed the destruction of businesses, some in broad daylight, with no police response and the question was: who decided the looters would be allowed to do that?” he said. “Go over to the Third Precinct after the police had fled and then it was destroyed – who ordered that stand-down?”
Gazelka said Newman will lead the oversight hearings and more details will be released in the coming days.
“We all heard the pleading of the public to tell them what the plan was with all of those fires burning across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Who was in charge? Those are some of the questions we want answered,” Gazelka added. “This wasn’t just about bricks and mortar. People’s lives were at risk and crowds were unchecked. Who was responsible for allowing the risk to the public?”
Senate Democrats said the plan to hold oversight hearings shows a “complete lack of urgency to protect the Black lives that are at risk of being killed at the hands of police officers.”
“After we saw the murder of George Floyd, the entire state and nation spoke out. They still aren’t listening to the demands for change within our criminal justice system,” said Assistant Minority Leader Jeff Hayden (DFL-Minneapolis). “If Senate Republicans really want to help the Black community, they should start by talking to us and recognizing this is not just a Minneapolis-Saint Paul issue. 60 percent of police deadly encounters have taken place in Greater Minnesota.”
– – –