Attorney General Eric Holder is expected to launch a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo. police department this week, the Washington Post reports. The probe is expected to determine "whether the department employed policies and practices that resulted in a pattern of civil rights violations," and stems from the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of about 20,000, has a population that is two-thirds black— of the police force's 53 officers, just four are black.
The investigation, officials told the Post, could also expand to other police departments in St. Louis County and will be conducted using "a process similar to that used to investigate complaints of profiling and the use of excessive force in other police departments across the country." Violent protests rocked Ferguson for days following Brown's killing and were marked by police's "militarized" response to both protesters and journalists covering the events.
"We've been doing everything we can to become a professional police department and a professional city," Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson told the New York Times. "We have no intentional policies or procedures which discriminated or violated civil rights. But if we have anything there which may unintentionally do that, we need to know about it."
The Justice Department's probe is in addition to the FBI's own investigation into Brown's shooting, which also seeks to determine if there was a civil rights violation. A grand jury has already been assembled and is currently hearing evidence that could lead to charges against Wilson.
"I told them honestly that we're not hiding anything, so if someone wants to look into this, I welcome it," Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, who met with Justice Department officials Wednesday evening, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "I have nothing to hide and neither does our city, and we will comply and participate with their investigation. I hope this will restore confidence in our police department and the city government."
According to the Post, there have been twice as many civil rights investigations under Holder's tenure as Attorney General than any of his predecessors and that there are "at least 34" other police departments currently being investigated.
[Image via AP]