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Justice Department Begins Investigating Ferguson Police

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 4, 2014 3:10PM

Scott Olson/Getty Images

The Justice Department is expected to announce a wide-ranging investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department, in the wake of that department’s actions following the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson last month.

Justice Department sources said the announcement could come as soon as Thursday, and will look at practices by Ferguson police related to training of officers, allegations of misconduct and excessive force in the department. The investigation, known as a “pattern-and-practice” probe, is a civil investigation used by the Justice Department to determine if there are deeply-rooted problems within police departments across the country.

The Ferguson Police Department was roundly criticized for it excessive use of force in the days following Brown’s death. The Washington Post reported last weekend five current members and one former member of the Ferguson police force face federal lawsuits alleging excessive force. Among those charges: officers hog-tied a 12-year-old boy who was checking his family mailbox; using a stun gun on a mentally ill man who later died; and pistol whipping children. There are also a half-dozen internal investigations into police misconduct within the Ferguson police department.

Typically, if evidence of misconduct is found, these investigations are resolved through court-approved consent decrees. If a settlement cannot be reached, the Justice Department may file litigation.

This pending investigation is separate from a current investigation being conducted by the Justice Department into the shooting death of Brown. A local grand jury has also opened an investigation of the shooting, which could result in charges against Wilson.