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Justice Dept. launches broad civil rights investigation into Ferguson police practices

The Justice Department is opening a broad civil rights investigation into policing practices in Ferguson, Missouri, officials said Wednesday. The investigation, which could also include other police forces in St. Louis County, will examine if local police have a "pattern or practice" of violating residents' civil rights, such as through racial profiling or excessive use of force. It is in addition to a separate FBI civil rights investigation into Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown on Aug. 9.

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson tells The New York Times that he welcomes the federal investigation. "We have no intentional policies or procedures which discriminated or violated civil rights," he said, adding, "Obviously, we have gaps."

At least five Ferguson police officers and one former officer have outstanding federal lawsuits against them claiming excessive force, The Washington Post reported last weekend, including allegations that cops hog-tied a 12-year-old boy who was out checking his family's mailbox and have pistol-whipped children. Attorney General Eric Holder has been more aggressive than his predecessors in investigating police departments for using excessive and deadly force.