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'We See George Floyd Often': Hennepin Co. Chief Public Defender Says She's Raised Red Flags About Abusive Officers For Years

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's been more than three weeks since a former Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin George Floyd to the ground.

Mary Moriarty, Hennepin County chief public defender, tells WCCO it happens often. She says her office has raised concerns about the behavior of officers for years.

Her office defends clients arrested by Minneapolis police and other departments in the county. The cases are charged by the Hennepin County Attorney's office.

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Moriarty, who sees similar cases that never make it to the media, says what happened outside of Cup Foods on Memorial Day is not an outlier.

"The whole country is looking at George Floyd, but we see George Floyd often, unfortunately," Moriarty said

She said what the world witnessed with Floyd is nothing new to her office -- but the outcome was.

"It's not just Minneapolis police. For years, we've seen an environment of interaction with our clients that's disrespectful," Moriarty said. "Rough treatment, like knees in backs and necks."

READ MORE: 'That Frustration Is Valid': Police Chief Arradondo Addresses Departure Of 7 Officers Since George Floyd's Death

Moriarty says her office has raised the red flag to officials "for years." In 2018, her office discovered in a low-level marijuana sting that 46 of the 47 charged were Black. She went to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey with the findings. At Frey's direction, Police Chief Medaria Arradondo said the department would discontinue that specific enforcement. The cases were later dismissed.

Moriarty said before body cameras, it was hard to get someone to believe a client over an officer's word. Now that the court system often sees video, she thinks it's up to them to be part of the solution when they see bad behavior.

"We all play a role in holding each other accountable in the system. It is usually not just one player in the criminal justice system, not just the police. It is prosecutors, it is judges," Moriarty said.

The Hennepin County Attorney's office gave this statement to WCCO on the matter:

[The attorney's office] has always believed it must be a leader in ensuring that there is equal justice under the law for every person. For years, we have reported to police chief's behavior by their officers that we felt was inappropriate. When the behavior was egregious, we declined to charge the case. We have charged numerous cases against police officers who committed sexual assaults, who used unnecessary force against suspects or who stole money while on duty. We can always do more and we will continue to do more.

The Minneapolis Police Department gave this statement to WCCO:

We welcome any reform system-wide and agree they should be made system wide and not just with police. We will focus on the reform we can do to make us a more procedurally just agency. We have always encouraged people that if they see improper behavior by our department to file a complaint trough the internal affairs unit or the [Office of Police Conduct Review].

Hennepin County's Chief Judge-elect Toddrick S. Barnette, whose term beings July 1, gave WCCO this statement:

The Fourth Judicial District will continue to work with our justice partners through groups like the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee and the Adult Detention Initiative to identify, address, and eliminate racial disparities in the justice system in Hennepin County. We believe it is also important for us to do better by engaging the community in our efforts.

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