Investigators are focused on one Ferguson, Mo., police officer who killed an unarmed black teenager, but at least five other officers and one former officer in the town's 53-member department have been named in lawsuits alleging the use of excessive force, the Washington Post reports. In four federal lawsuits, including one on appeal, and more than a half-dozen investigations over the past decade, officers have contested a variety of allegations, including killing a mentally ill man with a Taser, pistol-whipping a child, choking and hog-tying a child and beating a man who was later charged with destroying city property because his blood spilled on officers' clothes.
One officer has faced three internal affairs probes and two lawsuits over claims he violated civil rights and used excessive force while working at a previous police department. That department demoted him after finding credible evidence to support one of the complaints, and he then was hired in Ferguson. Police officials outside Ferguson and plaintiffs' lawyers say the nature of such cases suggests there is a systemic problem in the Ferguson police force. Federal officials are considering a broader probe into whether there is a pattern of using excessive force that routinely violates people's civil rights. Counting Darren Wilson, whose shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 set off a firestorm of protests, about 13 percent of Ferguson's officers have faced excessive-force investigations.