The state of Minnesota today filed a human rights complaint against the Minneapolis Police Department following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died last week while being pinned to the ground by a white police officer, who has now been charged with murder.
The complaint was filed by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which will begin an investigation into the MPD's conduct over the past decade to determine if officers “engaged in systemic discriminatory practices,” according to a tweet from Gov. Tim Walz.
The charge alleges that discriminatory practices conducted by the police department are in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
"This incident, and others similar to it since at least January 1, 2010 and continuing to the present, require investigation into whether the respondent’s training, policies, procedures, practices, including but not limited to use of force protocols, and any corresponding implementation, amounts to unlawful race-based policing, which deprives people of color, particularly Black community members, of their civil rights under the Minnesota Human Rights Act,” the charges read, according to KARE, Minneapolis’s NBC affiliate.
The Minneapolis Police Department has a track record of questionable treatment of people of color, according to several reports.
In 2007, five Black police officers filed a civil lawsuit against the MPD alleging they witnessed serious discrimination against people of color, including within the department itself. One of the officers who sued was Medaria Arradondo, now police chief of Minneapolis.
The lawyer who represented the five officers in that case, John Klassen, told CNN that not only were Black officers experiencing employment discrimination, but they also stood by "watching the every day, every week, every year actions of white officers against citizens of color. … They had to stand and watch and read about and hear about and see no action, effective action, taken against those officers for what they firmly believed were constitutional violations and discrimination in the police of Minneapolis to citizens.”
The 2007 complaint alleged that Black officers were disciplined “more harshly and frequently than … white officers for comparable or more serious misconduct,” according to CNN. "African American officers have been regularly disciplined and lost command positions and other assignments for alcohol offenses."
In contrast, the complaint noted, a white sergeant with two alcohol offenses was promoted to the rank of lieutenant. Furthermore, it alleged that white officers supplied narcotics and alcohol to minor-age strippers.
The case was ultimately dismissed in 2009 and settled out of court for over $800,000, Klassen said. Arradondo was promoted to police chief in 2017, but according to TV station WILX, critics say officers in the department resisted any change to their practicies.
"Mr. Floyd died in our hands, and so I see that as being complicit," Arradondo told CNN. "Silence and inaction, you're complicit. If there was one solitary voice that would have intervened ... that's what I would have hoped for."
“George Floyd should be alive. He deserved to live a life full of dignity and joy,” Minnesota Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero said in a statement to KARE. “Community leaders have been asking for structural change for decades. They have fought for this and it is essential that we acknowledge the work and commitment of those who have paved the path to make today’s announcement possible.”
Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Floyd's death.