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The FBI and federal prosecutors are examining whether St. Louis police officers violated the civil rights of protesters who demonstrated after the acquittal in September of a White police officer who killed a Black man, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

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“The FBI will collect all available facts and evidence and ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, thorough and impartial manner. As this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to comment further at this time,” said Jeffrey B. Jensen, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.

The St. Louis police arrested more than 300 protesters after former Officer Jason Stockley was found not guilty of murder in the death of Anthony Lamar Smith. Civil rights groups and activists have accused the city’s police department of unlawful arrests and indiscriminate violence toward protesters. In a letter dated Oct. 4, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division notified St. Louis’ mayor and police chief that the agency would conduct an investigation into a police “pattern or practice” of depriving the protesters of their constitutional rights. The DOJ did not identify a specific incident that prompted the investigation.

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Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry issued a preliminary ruling last week that restricted police use of chemical agents and dispersal orders. The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint against the city for alleged abuses. It’s important for the federal government to probe the systemic civil rights violation by the police, but it’s also necessary for law enforcement to engage the community, said Tony Rothert, legal director of the ACLU. The DOJ launched a similar “pattern and practice” investigation of the Ferguson, Missouri police after protests erupted following the decision not indict the White officer who fatally shot Michael Brown.

SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

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