Holder: Civil rights charges still possible

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The federal government’s investigation into the shooting death of Michael Brown “remains ongoing,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Monday after a grand jury decided against indicting the officer who shot and killed the Ferguson teenager.

Calling Brown’s death “a tragedy,” Holder said his department is still examining the possibility of bringing civil rights charges against Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson.

“Though we have shared information with local prosecutors during the course of our investigation, the federal inquiry has been independent of the local one from the start, and remains so now,” Holder said.

Holder said the Justice Department was also continuing to invest allegations of unconstitutional policing patterns and practices by the Ferguson Police Department.

{mosads}“This incident has sparked a national conversation about the need to ensure confidence between law enforcement and the communities they protect and serve,” Holder said. “While constructive efforts are underway in Ferguson and communities nationwide, far more must be done to create enduring trust.”

Holder, who has served as the Obama administration’s point person for examining the case — which has become a flashpoint for frustration over police treatment of minorities — also echoed President Obama’s call for peace in the aftermath of the decision.

“Though there will be disagreement with the grand jury’s decision not to indict, this feeling should not lead to violence,” Holder said.

The attorney general said it did not honor Michael Brown’s memory “to engage in violence or looting.” 

“In the coming days, it will likewise be important for local law enforcement authorities to respect the rights of demonstrators, and deescalate tensions by avoiding excessive displays — and uses — of force,” he said.

To that point, Holder pledged the Justice Department would continue to work with civil rights, faith, and community leaders to improve relationships with law enforcement — a charge Obama also mentioned in his brief remarks following the grand jury’s decision.

“I’ve instructed Attorney General Holder to work with cities across the country to help build better relations between communities and law enforcement,” Obama said. “That means working with law enforcement officials to make sure their ranks are representative of the communities they serve.”

Holder’s involvement in the case has included coordinating directly with Brown’s family, and briefing them on the federal civil rights investigation. In August, he traveled to the town to receive an on-the-ground briefing and meet with local officials.

The Justice Department has also offered technical assistance to police in Ferguson to help conduct crowd control without extreme use of force. And Holder’s team has attempted to bring law enforcement and civic leaders together to preempt violence.

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