ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Minnesota Department of Human Rights launched a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department after the death of George Floyd.
The investigation will look into MPD policies, procedures, and practices over the past 10 years “determine if the MPD has engaged in systemic discriminatory practices toward people of color.”
It is the first time Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation against the state’s biggest police department, Walz said.
Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said the civil rights charge was served on the city of Minneapolis at 1 p.m. She said she hoped for “quick changes” with city cooperation before working toward long-term changes through a consent decree, which would be enforced by a court for years to come.
"The sworn and civilian members of the Minneapolis Police Department remain steadfast in recognizing that service is honorable, and it requires building genuine and authentic relationships with all communities," said Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo in a statement. "The authority given to us by the community comes with great responsibility and obligation to always have their best interest at heart. With the assistance of the State Human Rights Commission, we can take an honest examination at systemic barriers that have prevented us from reaching our greatest potential for those we serve."
About 40 Minnesota Democratic lawmakers called for more regulations on police in the wake of George Floyd's death and said they would demand those changes during a legislative special session later this month.
The proposals from the House People of Color and Indigenous Caucus include 22 police changes. Democrats propose stripping Minnesota county attorneys of their power to prosecute police killings, giving control instead to the Minnesota Attorney General's office.
The lawmakers are also calling for the state ban on residency requirements for police officers to be lifted, which would allow cities to force officers to live in the city. They said the state's board on officer standards should be given more authority and be filled with more public members to make it racially diverse.
"I hope at this moment when I go home tonight, I can look into my own children’s eyes and tell them that this time is going to be different," said state Rep. Ruth Richardson, DFL-Mendota Heights, who is black. "But I’ve had that conversation before, and still we’re here."
Floyd died May 25 after now-fired Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin held him to the ground by putting his knee in Floyd's neck for several minutes. The incident has sparked an outcry across the nation, calls for policing changes, and unrest and violence.
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, speaking on behalf of Walz, said the administration supported new regulations on police. The administration is likely to suggest some of its own policy changes soon, Flanagan said.
"We have heard these things firsthand of the concerns and frankly how unsafe people feel in their communities because of the MPD," she told reporters.
House Democrats' 22 proposals do not include a crackdown on rioting, as Senate Republicans called last week on the state to do. Dozens of buildings in Minneapolis and St. Paul were either burned or looted, and Gov. Tim Walz responded by fully activating the Minnesota National Guard for the first time since World War II.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, the state's top elected Republican, did not respond to a message seeking comment. Senate Republicans are are "open to any ideas that will work," a spokeswoman for the caucus said.
Democrats said police changes had fallen on deaf ears with the Senate GOP for years, and said their proposals will get at the root cause of last week's unrest -- Floyd's death.
"None of that (rioting) would’ve happened on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, through the weekend, without that," state Rep. Carlos Mariani, the House Public Safety chairman, told reporters. "So let’s get real. Let’s get real, Senate."
The first of the Democrats' 22 proposals, transferring power to the attorney general to prosecute police killings, is likely to generate some of the strongest debate.
A Democrat, Keith Ellison, holds the attorney general's office now. However, Ellison beat Republican Doug Wardlow in 2018 by just a 49-45 margin, the closest statewide race that year.
Walz has already put Ellison in charge of the prosecuting the case of Floyd's death.
"If I came up here and said we’re going to solve this by just moving this to Keith Ellison, that would not only be false, but frankly the people in our communities rightfully would say that is not a holistic, systemic, true, deep answer," Mariani said.
Walz has said he is likely to extend his peacetime emergency over the coronavirus on June 12, which would require a special session.
When asked if a lack of progress on police issues will put the rest of the looming special legislative session in jeopardy, Mariani said it would.
"It’s a false proposition at this point in time to say that the Minnesota legislature would convene and not address this issue. There are no other issues more important," Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, said.
DEATH OF GEORGE FLOYD
George Floyd, a black man, died on Memorial Day while in police custody. Three police officers held him down, with one of them, Officer Derek Chauvin, kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe.”
Bystander video showed Chauvin continued to kneel on Floyd’s neck even after he lost consciousness and appeared to stop breathing. None of the officers, including the fourth officer standing nearby, moved from their positions until an ambulance arrived, despite bystanders’ pleas.
The Hennepin County Medical Examiner has ruled his death a homicide and determined his heart stopped as the officers restrained him.
Chauvin is now charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. He and the other three officers involved in Floyd’s death have been fired.