Washington (CNN) -- The Justice Department Tuesday announced that it has launched an investigation of the Albuquerque, New Mexico, police department involving allegations of excessive force use and use of unreasonable deadly force.
At a news conference, Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said investigators will try to determine whether the city's police officers engaged in a pattern or practice of excessive force in violation of federal laws and constitutional rights.
Perez and other civil rights officials met with Albuquerque's mayor and police chief, who pledged their full cooperation with the probe Perez said.
"Let me be clear: this is a civil investigation not a criminal investigation," Perez said.
A letter from the Justice Department to Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry said the investigation was being headed by the department's civil rights division and by the U.S. attorney's office in New Mexico.
Neither the Justice Department nor local officials offered specifics of any cases that were being investigated.
Berry said in a statement that the Justice probe was "an investigation concerning officer use of force and systems and policies that have been in place for decades in many cases."
Both Berry and Police Chief Ray Schultz issued statements in response to the Department of Justice announcement, and both local officials indicated their city and department had been cooperating with federal investigators for about a year in what Berry called "an informal inquiry" into the police department.
Schultz in his statement praised his department but added, "we know that we are not always perfect and that there is always room for improvement."
In 2010, Schultz said, "when we first noticed an increased number of police/citizen interactions resulting in force it was the men and women of APD who immediately began identifying ways to improve the quality of police services that we deliver. Their recommendations, along with 39 additional ones from the Police Executive Research Forum, were adopted, and to date, over 92% have been implemented."
Schultz said he and his officers "look forward to working with the DOJ investigative team and its panel of experts and identifying any additional steps that we can take to improve our department and our community."
The Justice Department's Perez said the Albuquerque investigation brings the total number of active Justice Department civil probes into police departments to 14 nationwide.
CNN's Terry Frieden contributed to this report.