The U.S. Justice Department notified Ferguson, Mo. police Wednesday that it will open a civil rights investigation into the department’s police practices, according to multiple reports.
Ferguson police Chief Thomas Jackson acknowledged that his force has “gaps” in a Wednesday night interview with the New York Times and said that he welcomes the investigation.
“We’ve been doing everything we can to become a professional police department and a professional city,” he told the Times. “We have no intentional policies or procedures which discriminated or violated civil rights. But if we have anything there which may unintentionally do that, we need to know about it.”
Jackson has said that Ferguson has had trouble recruiting black officers. The Ferguson police department has 53 officers, just three of whom are black.
The Justice Department probe is in addition to an FBI investigation into possible civil rights violations in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white Ferguson police officer on Aug. 9. The death of 18-year-old Michael Brown sparked over a week of heated protests against law enforcement in the St. Louis suburb.
The new investigation could be announced as early as Thursday afternoon, according to the Washington Post. Federal officials speaking on condition of anonymity told the Post that the probe may also extend to other police departments in St. Louis County beyond Ferguson.
The Post also reported last week that at least six Ferguson police officers were involved in lawsuits over the past few years that accused them of using excessive force. In the four lawsuits naming Ferguson officers, one officer involved was African-American and all but one victim was black.