DOJ Launches Investigation of St. Louis Area Police


Attorney General Eric Holder announced a broad civil rights investigation of the Ferguson and St. Louis police departments today; an investigation that will go beyond their response to protests in Ferguson to determine if there is a pattern of abuse.

You can read the full press release at the Department of Justice website. Here’s the meat of it:

On the Ferguson Police Department

The pattern or practice investigation will look at whether officers of the Ferguson Police Department have engaged in systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law. The investigation will focus on the Ferguson Police Department’s use of force, including deadly force; stops, searches and arrests; discriminatory policing; and treatment of detainees inside Ferguson’s city jail by Ferguson police officers. The department will consider all relevant information, particularly the efforts that FPD has undertaken to ensure compliance with federal law, and the experiences and views of the community.

On the St. Louis County Police Department

The COPS Collaborative Reform Technical Assistance process with the SLCPD is a voluntary process that will include an open, independent and objective assessment of key operational areas of the police department, such as training, use of force, handling mass demonstrations, stops, searches, arrests, and fair and impartial policing. The assessment will include the SLCPD police academy which trains officers for many police departments in the region, including the FPD. The findings of this assessment, and recommendations to address any deficiencies that it uncovers, will be provided in a public report and shared with the community. Additionally, SLCPD Chief Jon Belmar has requested that COPS conduct an after action report on the SLCPD’s response to the protests following the shooting of Michael Brown.

In his press conference today Holder made it clear that the department’s investigation will be broad and comprehensive and will seek long-term solutions that may prevent recent events from happening again.

It may be a long time before the results of the investigation are made public but, based on what we all witnessed during the Ferguson protests, it seems certain to me that numerous violations of the constitution have been committed not just during the weeks-long protest but over a long period of time leading up to it. That is to say I’m fairly certain the investigation confirm what we already know and more.

For those who haven’t yet, it’s time to give the Obama administration credit for doing what needs to be done.

This isn’t a sound bite. This is real action.

(photo: Whitney Curtis/New York Times)