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Feds launch Ferguson police probe

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Updated: 9/04 5:58 pm

FERGUSON, Mo. (NBC News) Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the Justice Department will investigate the Ferguson, Missouri Police Department.

Federal investigators will look at the department's practices for a matter or years leading up to the shooting of an unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

The investigation will look for potential patterns like excessive force or civil rights violations, and could expand to neighboring police departments.

Ferguson is two-thirds African-American, but has only four African-Americans on its 53 officer force. Federal officials say that's not evidence of a problem, but it's part of what they'll be looking at.

Ferguson's officials say they're cooperating.

"I take no personal offense to it at all," said Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson. "In the end, the Justice Department is going to try to improve the quality of policing nationwide."

Race and community relations is a critical concern for a department that's mostly white in a community that's mostly African-American.

"We've been making strides over the past several years to improve that, and I would hope that the Department of Justice will recognize that," said Ferguson Mayor James Knowles.

Read more.

-- Brian Mooar reports

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