DOJ Investigation Of Ferguson Police Department
On August 29, 2014, I wrote that when searching for a copy of the $40 million lawsuit filed against the Ferguson, MO police department, that I discovered other lawsuits that name various Ferguson police officers as defendants. In that post, I also wrote that the U.S. Department of Justice has a division to receive and investigate complaints against law enforcement who violate civil rights under color and claim of official right. Considering that some citizens of Ferguson stated that no private attorney was willing to go against Ferguson, it was my opinion that their only option was to file complaints with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
Today, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder held a press conference announcing that the Department of Justice has opened an investigation into the Ferguson police department. The video is below. Please note that he says the investigation includes if the Ferguson police department has violated the constitution and/or federal law. Those are two different things under the DOJ.
Under the 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, the Justice Department has the authority to file civil suits against law enforcement agencies that engage in a pattern of misconduct. The department also has the authority to file suit against law enforcement agencies that receive federal funds and engage in a pattern of discrimination.
As one example, in 2003, the Justice Department filed a civil suit against the Detroit Police Department for use of force and witness retention practices. The Detroit Police Department entered a consent decree that required them to correct those practices. That consent decree was recently terminated in August 2014, with an additional 18 months of federal oversight. This is an example of the DOJ’s civil action.
As an example of the DOJ’s prosecutorial actions, in May 2014, Jason Stacks, a former Lowndes County Georgia Sheriff’s Deputy, plead guilty to conspiring to use his law enforcement authority to unlawfully detain and extort money from Hispanic motorists. Stacks admitted that he conspired with two civilians to subject Hispanic motorists to unlawful traffic stops so that the conspirators could demand the motorists pay money in order to avoid arrest and/or deportation.
Here is the video of today’s press conference.