News / USA

Justice Department to Probe Ferguson, Missouri Police

Federal Investigation Launched Into Ferguson Police Departmenti
Chris Simkins
September 04, 2014 11:14 PM
The U.S. Justice Department has launched a civil rights investigation into the police department of Ferguson, Missouri, where an unarmed black teenager was fatally shot by a white police officer last month. Federal investigators are looking into allegations that Ferguson police engaged in a repeated pattern of abusive treatment against the town's black residents. VOA’s Chris Simkins has more on the story.
Related video report by Chris Simkins
VOA News

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says the Justice Department has opened a wide-ranging civil rights investigation into the practices of the police department in Ferguson, Missouri, a suburb of the midwest city of St. Louis.

The announcement Thursday follows the August 9 police shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager, at the hands of a white police officer, Darren Wilson.  Brown’s death set off several days of protests in Ferguson that included clashes between demonstrators and police.

Police say Wilson stopped Brown and a friend as they walked in the middle of a street.  They say Brown assaulted the officer and tried to take his gun, causing Wilson to open fire.  Other witnesses, however, have given a different account.  They also say Brown was shot several times even though he had run away from the police officer and raised his arms in surrender.

Holder said the broader civil rights investigation will look at the practices of the Ferguson Police Department in recent years, including police stops of citizens and arrest patterns.  Ferguson’s population is about 70 percent black but the police force is predominantly white.

At a news conference at the Justice Department, Holder said the decision to go ahead with a broader investigation was based in part on his visit to the community last month and meetings with local officials and residents.  “In meetings and listening sessions as well as informal conversations, people consistently expressed concerns stemming from specific alleged incidents, from general police practices and from the lack of diversity on Ferguson’s police force," he said.

Holder told reporters local officials have welcomed the investigation and pledged their cooperation.

This latest probe is separate from the ongoing civil rights investigation into the circumstances of Brown’s death.  In addition, a local grand jury is hearing evidence and is deciding whether Wilson should be indicted.

Holder also announced that the Justice Department will engage the St. Louis County Police Department in what he called a “collaborative reform effort” aimed at improving relations between officers and the local community.

Experts on race relations say the announcement of the broader federal civil rights investigation sends a symbolically powerful message to citizens in Ferguson.

Georgetown University law professor Anthony Cook says the decision for another federal probe could reassure some local residents.  “I think it is incredibly important," he said. "When you are dealing with a situation like this where there is pervasive distrust with regard to the ability of the local law enforcement officers to do their jobs in a competent, objective and unbiased manner, it quells some of the discontent and anxiety to have the federal government pursuing a parallel investigation.”

Over the last five years, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division has opened 20 investigations around the country of police departments accused of a pattern of violating civil rights.  In addition, the department has prosecuted some 300 individual police officers for misconduct.

The police department investigations often lead to agreements known as consent decrees that specify changes local departments should make to ease racial tensions and restore the confidence of local residents in their local law enforcement officials.

You May Like

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

Report: US to Sail Warships Near Disputed S. China Sea Islands

Move will signal nonrecognition of Chinese territorial claims over area, Financial Times reports, citing senior US official More

Study Describes Ancient Deltas, Lakes on Mars

Research builds on recent NASA announcement that water flows on red planet today More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanoni
John Owens
October 08, 2015 7:32 PM
Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video Self-Driving Cars Getting Closer

We are at the dawn of the robotic car age and should start getting used to seeing self-driving cars, at least on highways. Car and truck manufacturers are now running a tight race to see who will be the first to hit the street, while some taxicab companies are already planning to upgrade their fleets. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Clinton Seeks to Boost Image Before Upcoming Debate

The five announced Democratic party presidential contenders meet in their first debate next Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton continues to lead the Democratic field, but she is getting a stronger-than-expected challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video South Carolina Reels Under Worst-ever Flooding

South Carolina is reeling from the worst flooding in recorded history that forced residents from their homes and left thousands without drinking water and electricity. Parts of the state, including the capital, Columbia, received about 60 centimeters of rain in just a couple of days. Authorities warn that the end of rain does not mean the end of danger, as it will take days for the water to recede. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs