WASHINGTON - Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced a sweeping Justice Department probe into the practices and culture of the Minneapolis Police Department, elevating the federal government's role a day after officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty in the murder of George Floyd.

During remarks at Justice Department headquarters, Garland said the civil investigation would determine whether "Minneapolis police engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing."

The Trump administration had opened a federal civil rights investigation in the case days after Floyd, a Black man, died last May after Chauvin pressed his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he was prone on his stomach. Garland said in a statement late Tuesday that 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."

He said the civil probe will examine whether the Minneapolis police have engaged in excessive force, discriminatory conduct or abused those with mental or physical disabilities."

The broader "practice or pattern" investigation into the department aims to root out more systemic problems within local police agencies, efforts that have been used by the DOJ during the Obama and George W. Bush administrations to pursue settlements with departments found to have engaged repeatedly in abusive tactics.

The Trump administration in 2018 moved to ban such settlements, known as consent decrees, under a memo from then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who said the efforts harmed morale among local cops.

Last week, Garland rescinded Sessions' memo, signaling the DOJ will return to a more robust use of federal legal authority to push for reforms among police departments.

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