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House Democrats ask Justice Department to investigate police misconduct in George Floyd case

Protests over George Floyd's death intensify
Protests over George Floyd's death intensify 05:44

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee are asking the Justice Department to investigate the circumstances surrounding the recent high-profile killings of three black Americans. This week, the death of George Floyd, an unarmed man in police custody who was pinned to the ground by an officer's knee on his neck, has sparked protests in Minneapolis and outrage across the country.

"America's history of racism and racially motivated violence is a plague that continues to live on through generations. It's an ugly truth that can be seen today in disproportionate rates of COVID deaths, in discriminatory police enforcement of social distancing rules, in racial profiling, and in the unconstitutional treatment of African Americans by law enforcement, among other examples," Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement accompanying the letter.

"This is why House Judiciary Democrats have sent a letter today to the U.S. Department of Justice to demand action," he continued. Nadler said that the committee would be considering legislation to address law enforcement issues including racial profiling and use of excessive force, and the "lost trust" between police departments and their communities.

House Democrats are asking the Justice Department to investigate Floyd's death and determine "whether it was part of a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct" by the Minneapolis Police Department. Their letter also requests an investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed EMT who was shot in March by Louisville Metro Police Department officers while she was in her own apartment, and whether that was "part of a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct by the LMPD." The FBI announced an investigation into Taylor's death last week.

Democrats also raised the death of Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed man who was killed while jogging in February. The letter asks the department to "evaluate the actions of local officials responsible for investigating the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, including the role played by local prosecutors, and whether they conspired to deprive Mr. Arbery of his constitutional rights." The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is examining "possible prosecutorial misconduct" involving two of the district attorneys involved in the case, who had conflicts of interest that resulted in a delay in arresting the suspects.

The Justice Department has also launched an investigation into whether Arbery's death was a hate crime, according to his family.

Citing principles of equal justice, the letter from Democrats said that "public trust in the blind administration of justice is being seriously tested by recent high-profile killings of African Americans during attempts to enforce state laws as well as by the lack of transparency regarding how and why those killings occurred."

The letter also requests that the department brief the committee on all three matters after conducting its investigations.

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