Demonstrators protest outside the Ferguson police department on Aug. 30. Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty images

The probe will examine the local police department’s use of deadly force and protocols for stops, searches, and arrests.

Attorney General Eric Holder said Thursday that the Justice Department will open a civil-rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department following weeks of protest in response to the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old.

The Justice Department will probe documented allegations of police misconduct, as well as an alleged history of racial discrimination, to determine whether Ferguson officers have violated federal civil-rights laws.

Holder met with officials and members of the community in Ferguson last month, when the St. Louis suburb was in the midst of protests for the Aug. 9 shooting death of Michael Brown.

"People consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents from general policing practices and from the lack of diversity on the Ferguson police force," Holder said Thursday. "These anecdotal accounts underscore the history of mistrust of law enforcement in Ferguson that has received a good deal of attention."

Holder said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles, Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson, and other city officials have pledged their cooperation in the investigation. The probe, he said, will "assess the police department's use of force, deadly force. It will analyze stops, searches, and arrests. And it will examine the treatment of individuals detained at Ferguson's city jail, in addition to other potentially discriminatory policing techniques and tactics that have been brought to light."

Other police departments that were involved in handling the protests last month may not be immune from the Justice Department's scrutiny, Holder said. "If at any point we find reason to expand our inquiry to include additional police forces in neighboring jurisdictions, we will not hesitate to do so."

Holder also announced Thursday that the Justice Department will work with the St. Louis County Police Department in a "collaborative reform effort," a comprehensive review of policies and training practices. The department was pulled off the scene in Ferguson just days after protests began, due to heavy-handed crowd-control tactics that included the use of tear gas and military-style equipment.

A separate Justice Department probe is looking into the events of Aug. 9 to determine whether Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Brown, violated Brown's civil rights.

The Justice Department investigations will unfold parallel to an FBI civil-rights probe launched just days after Brown's death. At the same time, a grand jury in St. Louis County is hearing the details of the case, but the jury will likely not decide whether to bring charges against Wilson until mid-October.

This post originally appeared on National Journal, an Atlantic partner site.

More from National Journal:

What This Summer Meant for The Midterms

House Democrats Will Be Less White and Male in 2015

The Cities Where Obamacare Plans Are Getting 

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California's Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over unoccupied homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  3. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  4. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

  5. Environment

    The City Known for ‘Sewer Socialists’ Actually Has Great Sewers

    Milwaukee now averages a mere 2.4 combined sewer overflows a year, thanks to a massive underground tunnel, green infrastructure, and flood-control measures.

×