The Justice Department will follow up the guilty verdicts against former police officer Derek Chauvin with a probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Wednesday.
Garland said the investigation would determine whether “Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing, ” reported the Washington Post.
The Trump administration had already opened a federal civil rights investigation in the case after Floyd died last May when Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck for just over nine minutes while he was prone on his stomach. Garland said that criminal probe is ongoing.
“Nothing can fill the void the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death,” Garland said. “My heart goes out to them and to all those who have experienced similar loss.”
Earlier, President Joe Biden joined Floyd’s family to celebrate the guilty verdicts as a “giant step forward” and to call for swift passage of a bill aimed at making police accountable for excessive use of force.
Calling it a major moment in the nation’s fight against ”systemic racism,” Biden said there was more work to do, according to various media reports.
“We can’t stop here,” said Biden, speaking Tuesday from the White House, following a powerful call by Vice President Kamala Harris to continue the battle for racial justice.
“It is not just a Black America problem or a people of color problem. it is a problem for every American,” Harris said. “It is holding our nation back from reaching our full potential.”
“A measure of justice isn’t the same as equal justice,” she said.
As if to underline her remarks, the media reported a fatal shooting of a 15-year-old Black teenager by police in Columbus, Ohio, even as the family and supporters erupted in celebration after the verdict against Chauvin was announced. Few details about the incident were announced. The victim was identified as Makiyah Bryant.
After the verdict, members of George Floyd’s extended family appeared at an emotional press conference to thank the prosecutors, attorneys and supporters around the world.
“Today, we are able to breathe again,” said one of Floyd’s younger brothers, Philonise.
Each family member who came to the microphone made clear they saw the verdict not only as a vindication but as a hopeful moment for broader national change.
“Justice for George means freedom for all,” Philonese said, adding that the best way to enshrine the verdict was by passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The act, which has passed in the House of Representatives, removes some of the hurdles to prosecuting officers for misconduct, creates a national registry for records of complaints against officers, and “establishes a framework to prohibit racial profiling at the federal, state and local levels.”
Biden said passage of the bill was a way to honor the memory of Floyd and other unarmed Black men and women who died during an encounter with police.
“‘I can’t breathe.’ Those were George Floyd’s last words,” Biden said. “We can’t let those words die with him. We have to keep hearing those words. We must not turn away. We can’t turn away.”
Chauvin, who killed Floyd with a prolonged knee to the neck last year, was convicted of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter,
Reactions to the verdict around the nation mixed joy with relief over the release of tensions since the Floyd death a year ago. Stores in downtown Minneapolis and other cities had been boarded up in anticipation of eruptions of angry protest if the verdict had gone differently.
But there was also a clear determination to ensure that the verdict would not be an isolated moment.
“While today’s verdict may have been a necessary step on the road to progress, it was far from a sufficient one. We cannot rest,” former President Barak Obama said in a statement.
“We will need to follow through with the concrete reforms that will reduce and ultimately eliminate racial bias in our criminal justice system.”
The Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump, cast the verdict as a critical moment in America’s troubled history of race, policing and criminal justice.
“We frame this moment for all of us, not just for George Floyd,” he said. “This is a victory for those who champion humanity over inhumanity, those who champion justice over injustice, those who champion morals over immorality.”
Mentioning the names of several other Black Americans killed by police — including some in the past three weeks — Crump promised to press on with the broader push for racial justice that was sparked by Floyd’s death.
.“Today is a pivotal moment for America,” Floyd’s nephew, Brandon Williams, said. “It is something this country has needed for a long time now. And hopefully today is the start of it.”