Officials: Feds planning to launch probe of Ferguson police department

Posted at 7:16 PM, Sep 03, 2014
and last updated 2014-09-03 21:26:13-04

By Shimon Prokupecz, Pamela Brown and Greg Botelho


(CNN) — The U.S. Justice Department is planning to take a top-to-bottom look at the Ferguson, Missouri, police department — which has come under fire for its past practices in the uproar over the shooting of Michael Brown — officials told CNN.

A Missouri official and a federal official told CNN on Wednesday that the civil rights division of the Justice Department is preparing to launch a new investigation into police in the St. Louis suburb.

The review will examine previous incidents and complaints involving police, as well as its training, to determine how the department operates and whether it meets federal standards, according to the Missouri official.

Justice Department representatives met with Ferguson officials in Missouri and informed them of the intent to launch the preliminary probe, said the Missouri official, who had direct knowledge of the meeting.

It is distinct from the Justice Department’s previously announced civil rights probe that is specific to the August 9 shooting of Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson, who is white. Proving a civil rights violation would require showing that Wilson exhibited “racial hostility,” says CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

The shooting and the fact authorities didn’t immediately, and still haven’t, charged Wilson spurred emotional and, at times, violent protests on the streets of Ferguson.

Dozens were arrested over those tense few weeks, which were sometimes marred by looting and clashes between protesters and law enforcement.

Brown’s shooting also stirred up locals’ gripes about Ferguson police over the years. Some of them claimed members of the predominantly white police force would routinely and inordinately single out blacks, which make up two-thirds of the St. Louis suburb’s population.

Many African-Americans said that they often found themselves subject to racial profiling — such as being pulled over for no obvious reason besides, they presumed, “DWB,” or driving while black.

Some white residents complained police have acted in a heavy-handed fashion.

Chief Tom Jackson has said the claim that officers are more likely to pull over blacks is more perception than reality.

Other cases, though, went well beyond that.

The family of Jason Moore recently filed a lawsuit accusing police of excessive force, claiming he died of cardiac arrest September 17, 2011, after police fired Tasers at him.

The family says that Moore, who they say suffered a psychological disorder, was walking around naked and posed no threat to police.

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