(WASHINGTON) — The Justice Department announced Wednesday it has opened a civil investigation into the City of Lexington, Mississippi, and its police department to determine whether law enforcement engages in unconstitutional policing.
The investigation is just the latest in a series of similar “pattern or practice” probes launched by the department into police departments around the U.S. However, in contrast, Lexington has a much smaller population — only about 1,600 people.
But DOJ officials in a Wednesday news conference stressed that it was just as important for the federal government to provide this method of oversight to small-town communities, given an estimate by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which found that half of the police departments around the U.S. have 10 officers or less.
The investigation will specifically look at whether police in Lexington violated citizens’ rights through use-of-force incidents, stops, searches and arrests.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said Wednesday that no single incident brought to DOJ’s attention prompted them to open this investigation — but added there was a “significant” enough amount that made it justified.
The city and its police department were informed of the investigation this week, according to DOJ, and promised to cooperate with investigators. ABC News has reached out to the police department for comment.
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