Civil rights investigators from the Department of Justice held a meeting with hundreds of residents in Ferguson, Missouri Wednesday evening, to discuss their experiences with city and county police.
Christy Lopez, a Justice Department deputy counsel, told residents that that the federal government will take seriously their allegations of racial profiling and brutality at the hands of law enforcement, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
“We are here to address patterns or practices of police misconduct,” Lopez said. We're looking at “whether people's constitutional rights are being violated on a regular basis.”
DoJ officials gave residents an update on their investigation at the start of the meeting. Attorney General Eric Holder announced a civil rights investigation into the Ferguson Police department on Sept. 4, following the shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.
Kayla M. Reed, who attended the meeting tweeted that officials told residents that “all municipalities are on notice in [St. Louis]. This isn’t just a Ferguson issue. It wont be tolerated anywhere.” Reed added that officials told the crowd that they were willing to open up other investigations if they find similar problems in other areas of the city, including family courts, school districts and the role of police officers in schools.
Alison Blood, a reporter for KMOX Newsradio in St. Louis, tweeted a photo of DoJ officials opening the meeting.
Reps from DOJ open the meeting. Say tonight is about explaining what the goal is, and to hear stories from residents. pic.twitter.com/KiXb3V3b6G
â€” Allison Blood (@AllisonBlood) September 25, 2014
Reporter Rebecca Rivas tweeted that Federal officials also said that they were investigating reports that police officers were not wearing name tags in Ferguson, and that it was a problem. DoJ officials reportedly said that they had written to the police chief asking him to enforce the wearing of name tags.
One resident reportedly told officials that they were the community's “only hope” if officer Darren Wilson was not indicted as a result of an ongoing grand jury probe into Brown's shooting. DoJ officials reportedly said that they “could not promise an indictment”.
Residents were then asked to meet individually with investigators to share their experiences of dealing with police in the city and county. Reporter Emanuele Berry tweeted a photo of residents lining up to speak with officials.
â€” Emanuele Berry (@Emanuelewithane) September 25, 2014
Some residents reportedly said that they were afraid of speaking to DoJ investigators if they were the subject of outstanding warrants. Investigators offered assurances that no information would be passed on to the local police.
Residents shared stories with investigators including how police too often target black motorists or act too aggressively toward black residents, according to the Associated Press.
The meeting, a step in the Justice Department investigation, comes as tensions have increased in Ferguson, following a period of relative calm. A memorial to Michael Brown on the street where he was short was burned early Tuesday, inflaming some residents. Early Wednesday, a crowd of people smashed the windows of at least one store and three people were arrested, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Tensions were further inflamed Tuesday, as reports surfaced of police officers wearing bracelets emblazoned with “I am Darren Wilson”. Buzzfeed quoted Missouri Highway Patrol Capt. Ron Johnson's reaction to the reports: “I think that was not a statement of law enforcement. I think wearing that was an individual statement,” Johnson said.