Department has been looking at civil rights issues in the Ferguson case
Now it also is examining the police response to 16 days of August protests
12-person team includes Justice Department officials, current and former police chiefs
A new Justice Department panel is reviewing the police response to 16 days of protests and disturbances after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri, police officer.
The so-called after-action review is taking a look at how officers from the Ferguson and St. Louis County police departments and the Missouri State Police handled everything from crowd control to arrests to interaction with the media, according to a Justice Department official.
The 12-person team, which includes Justice Department officials and current and former police chiefs, is part of the federal response promised by Attorney General Eric Holder in response to the shooting and aftermath.
The team started its assessment last week with a visit to Ferguson, conducting interviews with police officials and people who interacted with the police during the 16 days in August. They’ll return several times in the coming weeks.
Holder has been critical of the heavy-handed police response, which included phalanxes of armored police firing tear gas at demonstrators.
Ronald Davis, who heads the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, or COPS, has led efforts to train St. Louis area police to improve how they respond to protests.
His office is also helping manage the after-action review.
Despite police response problems already identified by Holder, Davis said the police review will be objective.
The group doing the after-action assessment won’t be “naive of the facts” that caused there to be a review in the first place, he said, but “the assessment will be based on facts. We have to start with a very objective slate.”
The first test of the new federal COPS training is expected soon, when a St. Louis County grand jury decides whether to indict Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson for shooting Brown.
If the grand jury decides not to indict Wilson, it could spark new protests.
Davis said Tuesday that his office has done a first round of training for 27 police commanders. The training covers everything from arrest practices to use of force.
One focus of the training is the guardian vs. warrior mentality. The aim, Davis said, is to move police to embrace the guardian mentality, so they act as guardians of constitutional rights, instead of warriors, as their riot-control armor may suggest.
The Justice Department is also conducting a separate civil rights investigation of the shooting and an investigation of the practices of the Ferguson Police Department.