Security forces charge demonstrators after being hit by water bottles during a protest against the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. File picture: Adrees Latif

Washington -

The US Justice Department is to launch a civil rights investigation into the Missouri police department involved in the racially charged shooting of an unarmed black teenager, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Attorney General Eric Holder's agency would investigate police in Ferguson to see if there was evidence of a pattern of civil rights violations by the department, the Post reported, citing two unnamed federal law enforcement officials.

The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, and subsequent violent protests, re-opened a fierce national debate on race and the tactics used by police in dealing with minorities.

The Justice Department probe could be announced as early as Thursday, the report said.

It would be carried out by the “Civil Rights Division and follow a process similar to that used to investigate other police departments across the country”, the Post cited the officials as saying.

President Barack Obama's administration already has launched a separate federal investigation into whether the police officer who shot Brown, Darren Wilson, violated the teenager's civil rights. - Sapa-AFP