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US Justice Department launching investigation into Albuquerque police

The U.S. Justice Department is launching a formal investigation into the Albuquerque Police Department, which has recently been under fire from civil rights advocates.

After a preliminary review started last year, "we have concluded that a full civil rights investigation is warranted to determine whether APD engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in a statement at a police department press conference in Albuquerque on Tuesday. "In particular the investigation will focus on use of force by APD, including but not limited to use of deadly force."

The Police Department in New Mexico's largest city has experienced a number of fatal shootings since 2010, and has been criticized over a number of cases alleging abuse by officers, The Associated Press reported.

Thomas Perez, the Assistant Attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, announced in August 2011 that officials were "gathering information" on the department, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

"Our goal is to search for the truth," Perez told the Journal in an interview this week. "We’re looking to see if there are systemic problems embedded in the culture of the department."

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The Police Department has also been plagued in recent months by a number of high-profile cases in which officers are accused of using excessive force, including some cases caught on video, the AP reported.

"Our investigation into APD’s use of force practices will be thorough, fair and independent," Perez.said Tuesday. "We will peel the onion to its core, and leave no stone unturned. We will follow the facts wherever they lead us."

He said that the probe would take into account police policies, practices and records, officers in the field and others in the department with the assistance of law enforcement experts. 

"We will also actively engage with the community — a critical part of the process of determining whether systemic violations exist and how a police department can be improved."

Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and the city's Police Chief Ray Schultz also spoke at the press conference, saying they would cooperate fully with the federal investigation. They noted that the city had already made an array of policy changes in the past 18 months, many of them addressing the way officers use force, adding that they looked forward to any "additional recommendations," the Albuquerque Journal reported. 

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