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The U.S. Justice Department says the embattled Albuquerque Police Department engaged in "patterns of excessive force" and believes the force violated the U.S. Constitution.

The federal agency said Thursday that Albuquerque officers too frequently used deadly force on people "who posed a minimal threat" and used a higher level of force too often on those with mental illness.

Acting U.S. Attorney Damon Martinez says investigators found "serious constitutional problems," but yet the findings will help the city determine "the next generation" of policing.

The announcement followed an investigation into allegations of civil rights violations and excessive use of force that spanned more than a year. The police department has faced intense criticism over 37 shootings by officers since 2010.

Outrage boiled over last month when hundreds of people protesting the police tactics clashed with cops.

Hundreds of people march north on Fifth Street to the headquarters of the Albuquerque Police Department protesting the latest police killing of James Boyd in the northeast foothills of Albuquerque on March 25, 2014.Greg Sorber / Albuquerque Journal via AP
— The Associated Press