The federal investigation of the Ferguson, Mo., Police Department will examine whether officers have routinely engaged in racial profiling or a pattern of using excessive force, the Washington Post reports. Attorney General Eric Holder said the Justice Department will conduct an “intensive review” of racial profiling, stops, searches, frisking and the handling of mass demonstrations by police officers in the St. Louis County Police Department, which voluntarily agreed to the review. “Anecdotal accounts underscore the history of mistrust of law enforcement in Ferguson,” Holder said. The announcement came less than a month after Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old African American, was fatally shot by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer who has claimed he acted in self-defense.
The Justice Department will also enter into a “collaborative reform effort” with the St. Louis County Police Department, which trains officers in Ferguson and other agencies in the St. Louis area. “Because St. Louis County administers training programs for officers throughout the area, including members of the Ferguson Police Department, it makes sense to include the county police department as part of our comprehensive approach,” Holder said. The Las Vegas police department was the first agency to participate in the collaborative reform process, which Justice started in 2011. James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, said Justice Department probes are most effective when they find solutions to systemic problems in the department instead of placing all the blame on individual officers. “It's all too common for them to lay the fault at the foot of the officer in the squad car,” he said. “That is inherently unfair. It does nothing to improve relations between officers and the community, which is vital to public safety. In most cases, the problems are with managerial deficiencies.”