Trust and a good relationship with all residents must be key outcomes of the civil rights investigation of the Ferguson Police Department.
Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday said the Justice Department’s civil rights division will investigate how Ferguson police use force, conduct traffic stops, searches and arrests and treat detainees. It’s an aggressive step, but one that is needed after weeks of protests since the Aug. 9 shooting death of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.
The new probe adds to the Justice Department investigation of whether police officer Darren Wilson violated the civil rights of 18-year-old Michael Brown in the fatal shooting. A St. Louis County grand jury also is hearing evidence in the case.
The unrest brought to the surface longstanding issues of racial profiling, excessive use of force and complaints of overall disrespect by mostly white police in Ferguson and other departments in majority black suburban cities surrounding St. Louis.
Encouragingly, the Justice Department will also be working with the St. Louis County Police Department, which trains officers in Ferguson and other departments.
With increasing racial and ethnic diversity in the U.S., police must credibly show they serve and protect everyone fairly. Trust must replace fear and intimidation that now too often accompany the badge.