In four federal lawsuits, including one that is on appeal, and more than a half-dozen investigations over the past decade, colleagues of Darren Wilson’s have separately contested a variety of allegations, including killing a mentally ill man with a Taser, pistol-whipping a child, choking and hog-tying a child and beating a man who was later charged with destroying city property because his blood spilled on officers’ clothes.
One officer has faced three internal affairs probes and two lawsuits over claims he violated civil rights and used excessive force while working at a previous police department in the mid-2000s. That department demoted him after finding credible evidence to support one of the complaints, and he subsequently was hired by the Ferguson force.
Police officials from outside Ferguson and plaintiffs’ lawyers say the nature of such cases suggests there is a systemic problem within the Ferguson police force. Department of Justice officials said they are considering a broader probe into whether there is a pattern of using excessive force that routinely violates people’s civil rights.
Counting Wilson, whose shooting of Michael Brown on Aug. 9 set off a firestorm of protests and a national debate on race and policing, about 13 percent of Ferguson’s officers have faced excessive-force investigations. Comparable national data on excessive force probes is not available. But the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project, funded by the libertarian Cato Institute, estimated on the basis of 2010 data that about 1 percent of U.S. police officers — 9.8 out of every 1,000 — will be cited for or charged with misconduct. Half of those cases involve excessive force.