Ferguson officials meeting with U.S. DOJ on police department probe

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 03, 2015 12:12 PM

By Carey Gillam

(Reuters) - Ferguson city officials were meeting with the U.S. Justice Department on Tuesday to go over the results of a federal probe of the city's police department, an investigation sparked by the police shooting of an unarmed black teenager in August.

The meeting is widely expected to include harsh criticism of Ferguson's mostly white police department and its treatment of the small Missouri community's mostly black residents. City officials have said in recent weeks that they are bracing for possible charges of civil rights violations and federal demands for reform.

"We don't know what is going to be said," said Ferguson spokesman Jeff Small said on Tuesday. "But it has been a frustrating process that we hoped to avoid."

Small said DOJ officials had not presented the city with any conclusions ahead of the meeting, even though the probe has been ongoing for months. The city has cooperated fully, Small said.

Ferguson has not retained special legal counsel but may do so depending upon the DOJ's report, Small said. Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Carr is joining Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson, Ferguson Mayor James Knowles and other city officials at the meeting Tuesday, Small said.

Ferguson, a St. Louis suburb of about 21,000 people, has been in the spotlight since a white Ferguson police officer shot dead Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, on Aug. 9 and in November was cleared of any wrongdoing by a grand jury.

The killing brought to light what some residents said was systemic mistreatment of minorities, and the city has since been sued for a litany of alleged wrong-doing. Some members of the city's police force have been accused of assaults, false arrests, and what plaintiffs in one lawsuit said is a widespread practice of issuing invalid arrest warrants and jailing people as a way to boost city revenues through fines and court fees.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said after visiting Ferguson last year that many black residents expressed mistrust and fear of police. The Justice Department said it was examining how Ferguson police officers use force, conduct stops and treat detainees, and whether they engage in discriminatory practices.

There was no immediate comment Tuesday from the Justice Department about the Ferguson investigation.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Lisa Lambert)