The Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into allegations of unlawful policing by the City of Ferguson Police Department.

Attorney General Eric Holder during his visit to Ferguson.  (courtesy; U.S. Department of Justice)

Attorney General Eric Holder during his visit to Ferguson. (courtesy; U.S. Department of Justice)

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced the investigation Thursday, saying he heard concerns from residents during his visit to Ferguson two weeks prior following the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown by Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson..

“I heard from them directly about the deep mistrust that has taken hold between law enforcement officials and members of the community,” says Holder. “People consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents, from general policing practices and from the lack of diversity on Ferguson’s police force.”

The investigation will look at whether Ferguson police officers have engaged in systemic violations of the Constitution or federal law. It will look at the Department’s use of force, including deadly force; stops, searches and arrests, discriminatory policing, and treatment of detainees in the city jail.

The new investigation is in addition to the criminal civil rights investigation launched into Brown’s death.

The Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Office has also launched a Collaborative Reform Initiative with the St. Louis County Police Department.

That is described as a voluntary process including an open, independent and objective assessment of training, use of force, the handling of mass demonstrations, stops, searches, arrests and impartial policing. The Department calls it, “a long-term strategy that identifies the issues within an agency that affect public trust and offers recommendations on how to improve the issue and enhance the relationship between the police and the community.”

“The recent disturbances in Ferguson have revealed significant mistrust between the community and police agencies throughout the country, including the St. Louis Police Department,” says COPS Director Ron Davis in a statement.

He writes, “The County has expressed a strong desire to take steps to create a relationship of trust and to ensure fairness and equity in its policing practices, and I applaud St. Louis County Police Chief John Belmar for seeking technical assistance and agreeing to the Collaborative Reform process.

The Department invites anyone wishing to provide information in relation to the investigation into the Ferguson Police Department to contact the Justice Department at (855) 856-2132 or via e-mail at [email protected].