U.S. News

Justice Department to review Minneapolis response to police protests

Police officers move the protesters back as they confront the crowd in front of a north Minneapolis police precinct, during a protest in response of Sunday's shooting death of Jamar Clark by police officers, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, November 18, 2015. REUTERS/Craig Lassig

(Reuters) - The United States Justice Department will review how the city of Minneapolis responded to protests after police shot and killed a young black man last November, the mayor’s office said on Thursday.

Mayor Betsy Hodges and Police Chief Janee Harteau requested the assessment by the federal department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, said a spokesman for the mayor.

The shooting of Jamar Clark, 24, by Minneapolis police officers came at a time of renewed nationwide scrutiny of police use of lethal force, especially against African Americans. A number of U.S. cities have been rocked by protests demanding more accountability for police officers who kill suspects on the job.

After Clark’s death, demonstrators set up an encampment outside a Minneapolis police station to hold around-the-clock protests. Police dismantled the camp, which at the time had about 50 people in it, on Dec. 3. A few people were briefly arrested at the time.

“COPS Office Deputy Director Robert Chapman didn’t commit to a specific timeline, but said that there is a sense of urgency and that his hope is that they would have a report completed by early fall,” said David Prestwood, a spokesman for the mayor.

The county prosecutor for Minneapolis has said he hopes to decide by the end of March whether charges will be filed against any of the officers involved in Clark’s death.

Some witnesses have said Clark was handcuffed or restrained on the ground when he was shot, while authorities have said there was a scuffle and Clark was trying to get a police officer’s gun.

Civil rights groups have sued the state of Minnesota to try to force them to release video footage of the shooting, although it is not clear what videos exist.

Reporting by Fiona Ortiz in Chicago; Editing by Frances Kerry