Attorney General Eric Holder is launching a broad civil rights investigation into the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department, the Washington Post reports. The investigation, which was announced today, will be conducted by the Justice Department's civil rights division and follow a process similar to that used to investigate complaints of profiling and the use of excessive force in other police departments. The move follows last month’s shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old African American, by a white Ferguson police officer who claimed he acted in self-defense. Brown, who was unarmed, was shot at least six times Aug. 9.
Holder's decision represents the Obama administration's most aggressive step to address the Ferguson shooting, which set off days of often-violent clashes between police and demonstrators in the streets of the St. Louis suburb. Federal officials said the probe will look not only at Ferguson but also at other police departments in St. Louis County. Some, like Ferguson, are predominantly white departments serving majority-African-American communities. At least one department invited the Justice Department to look at its practices. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the pending inquiry. The number of police department reviews the Justice Department has initiated under Holder for possible constitutional violations is twice that of any of his predecessors. At least 34 other departments are under investigation for alleged civil rights violations.