Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States – Community leaders in Minneapolis on Wednesday called for greater accountability for police brutality and more direct action by protesters after the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an investigation into the Police Department of the city a day after a former officer was convicted of the murder of George Floyd. , a black man.
On closed businesses across town, published footage of Floyd, as well as Daunte Wright and Philando Castile, black men also killed by police, serve as a reminder of the scale of the challenge. Wright was gunned down earlier this month, while Castile was killed in 2017.
“We need a real investigation, not consultations or public relations,” Michelle Gross, United Communities Against Police Brutality (CUAPB) official told Al Jazeera.
Gross visited the post office in late March to send the letter to United States Attorney General Merrick Garland, which resulted in the investigation.
“They always want to talk about building trust in law enforcement. Confidence is not the goal. Responsibility is. “
People on the streets of Minneapolis celebrated after the conviction of Derek Chauvin, who knelt at Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and the mood in the city in the Midwestern United States improved.
A former Minneapolis police officer, Chauvin was convicted of three counts – second and third degree murder and second degree manslaughter – in the murder of Floyd last May. The entire incident was caught on camera by a teenage spectator and sparked huge protests against racism in the United States and around the world.
Gross wants to see new convictions for police abuse, saying that around 465 cases since 2000 where an officer was involved in a murder need to be reopened.
Gross points to statistics on the Police Conduct Review Bureau, which Minneapolis uses to track complaints against the police. Since its creation eight years ago, it has received 3,434 complaints.
“They disciplined 20. That’s a discipline rate of 0.58%,” she said in a hotel room across from the Hennepin County Government Center.
The hotel room serves as a temporary headquarters for CUAPB, the Minnesota Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-MN), and other organizations working on law enforcement reform.
After the investigation was announced, officials had hasty conversations about press releases and statements.
Johnathon McClellan, chairman of the Minnesota Justice Coalition, expressed concern that the investigation was only for the show.
“I think the amount of work that has gone into getting the message out and finding the help we need speaks volumes,” he told Al Jazeera.
“It was not taken proactively by the administration as soon as the [President Joe Biden] took office.
McClellan is concerned that the Justice Department will not want to attack the “core” of the Minneapolis Police Department, which it claims to be “rotten.”
The Twin Cities region, which includes Saint Paul, Brooklyn Center and other cities, has several police departments that brutalize communities of color, he alleged.
Without addressing the “heart” of policing in the region, people of color will continue to experience “that level of fear … that they saw in the case of Daunte Wright.”
Wright, who was 20, was killed on April 11 after being arrested by White Officer Kim Potter at Brooklyn Center.
The town’s police chief said the shooting was an “accidental discharge” and Potter drew his gun rather than a taser during the frantic traffic stop.
Potter has been charged with second degree manslaughter, but organizers say the charge should be turned into murder.
The Department of Justice investigation is called a “pattern or practice” investigation, which is supposed to go beyond individual incidents to assess systemic failures and will allow the DOJ to “determine whether a police department has an unconstitutional or illegal policing model or practice ”. Garland said when announcing the investigation.
It will also examine whether the city police have the habit or practice of using excessive force, including during protests, and engaging in discriminatory behavior. There will also be a comprehensive review of its policies, including training, use of force investigations and accountability mechanisms.
The review could lead to major changes, but McClellan says that will only happen if local groups keep up the pressure.
Gross, who has worked for Police Liability for decades, agrees.
“It’s up to us to make sure this isn’t a public relations opportunity,” she said.