GOP state lawmakers want AG Barr to look at Minneapolis Police Department

A person holds a sign that reads "40 acres and a mule."
Trahern Crews of Minnesota Black Lives Matter chapter demands reparations and police reform on Jun 19, 2020 during a Juneteenth rally outside the Minnesota State Capitol. Reparation is "more than a check," Crews said, explaining that it's about economic justice.
Christine T. Nguyen | MPR News file

Updated: 5:28 p.m.

Three Republican state senators from outside the Twin Cities said Tuesday that they want a federal investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department in the aftermath of the George Floyd killing.

Sens. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, are asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr to investigate whether there are patterns of excessive force and bias in the department. They also want a closer look at the department’s response to the rioting that occurred after the killing.

Newman said he does not believe state officials, including the Department of Human Rights, are capable of conducting a fair and impartial investigation.

“Unless and until we can get to the bottom of what the problem is and who is creating the problem over in Minneapolis, I don’t know how we can possibly entertain and prepare the appropriate legislation,” Newman said.

It’s unclear how the requested federal investigation would differ from one announced last month by U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald into the Floyd killing. Newman said he was not aware of that effort.

The three Republicans detailed their request just days after the Minnesota Legislature adjourned a special session without finalizing any police accountability proposals that came forward.

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Senjem said he thinks the investigation would be helpful.

“Going inside the Minneapolis city Police Department and understanding where reforms are needs is what this is all about,” Senjem said. “My hope would be it gets us there.”

Some Senate Democrats raised questions about the call for another probe and expressed support for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.

“Today’s request of the Department of Justice does nothing but attempt to undermine one of our state agencies, and instead put the investigation into the hands of an administration that has not been impartial on issues of racial justice and police brutality,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park.

And no members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus were asked to participate or invited to discuss the move, noted Sen. Jeff Hayden, DFL-Minneapolis. 

“Structural racism is a central issue in need of investigating, and our colleagues in the Senate Majority would know this if they would make any effort to engage with members of the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus on criminal justice and policing reforms,” Hayden said.