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June 30, 2015

DOJ cites missteps by police during Ferguson unrest: newspaper

Police responding to race-related protests and riots in Ferguson, Missouri, last summer made a series of missteps, including antagonizing crowds with attack dogs and military-style tactics, according to a U.S. report obtained by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Justice Department report is a summary of a longer report due this week, and reviews the actions of the police departments in Ferguson, St. Louis, and St. Louis County, along with the Missouri Highway Patrol, the Post-Dispatch said.

All four agencies tried to quell the protests and riots that broke out after a white Ferguson police officer shot and killed an unarmed black teenager on Aug. 9.

A county grand jury declined to indict Officer Darren Wilson for killing 18-year-old Michael Brown, and the Justice Department also said no charges would be brought. But Brown's death set off months of protests about police treatment of minorities that expanded to cities around the country.

Earlier this year, the Justice Department released a scathing report that found a range of discriminatory actions by the Ferguson police department and the small community's municipal court system, which led to upheaval in the city's leadership.

The latest report said the use of dogs for crowd control during the protests in Ferguson incited fear and anger in the crowd, according to the Post-Dispatch. The report said tear gas was used on people without warning in areas from which there was no safe retreat, and police were inconsistent in using force and making arrests, according to the newspaper.

The report criticized police for positioning an officer atop an armored vehicle to monitor the crowd through rifle sights, the newspaper said. The Justice Department did not have immediate comment on the report.

The full report is expected to run about 200 pages and contain roughly 45 findings, with recommendations for the law enforcement agencies on each point, the newspaper said.

Ferguson Mayor James Knowles declined to comment, saying city officials have received only a draft of the report.

There was no immediate comment from officials with the other jurisdictions to Reuters, though the newspaper quoted a statement by St. Louis County officials saying they would work with federal officials on the matter. St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson was quoted by the paper saying that he needed to see the whole document before commenting.