The Justice Department is planning an investigation of the police department in Ferguson, Mo., that will go far beyond the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last month. The probe, which will look at the force's behavior over the last several years to determine whether racial profiling and excessive force created a pattern of civil rights violations, will be announced by Attorney General Eric Holder today, federal law enforcement officials tell the Washington Post. The officials say the probe will also look at other St. Louis County police forces. The Justice Department's civil rights division and the FBI are already investigating the Brown shooting.
The city of Ferguson is 67% black, according to the 2010 census, but has just four black officers on its 53-officer force, which is being sued for $40 million by five plaintiffs who accuse it of using excessive force. The force's chief says he welcomes the investigation as a way to "fill those gaps" in the force's performance. "We've been doing everything we can to become a professional police department and a professional city," he tells 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." (In April, another Justice Department probe concluded that police in Albuquerque routinely used excessive and deadly force.)