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CBS News Examines Police Use of Force Five Years After Ferguson Killing

An exhaustive report on the use of force by police officers comes from CBS News, which offers up “Policing in America: Five Years After Ferguson” Aug. 7. The five-year anniversary of the fatal shooting of unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer occurs Aug. 9, and CBS News reached out to some 155 police departments nationwide to see how they train officers to deal with racial bias.

CBS This Morning will feature two segments from the report Wednesday, and CBS Evening News picks it up that evening. CBSN will stream the report as well.

“I’ve been covering law enforcement for 30 years, and this is an eye opener,” said Jeff Pegues, CBS News Justice and Homeland Security correspondent.

Police officers--both brass and rank-and-file cops--share their viewpoints on whether their racial bias training has done good. CBS also reports on the FBI tracking use of force in departments across the U.S., a first for the bureau, according to Jonathan Blakely, supervising producer at CBS News. Blakely calls it a “massive, massive undertaking” for the FBI, but noted that universal standards don’t yet exist for use of force among police departments.

CBS This Morning reports on the FBI’s new database Aug. 8.

The various departments offer a mixed bag of reactions to the training. One officer in Mesa, Arizona said the training reinforces “that the police are racist, but specifically the white male police are racist.” Others say it has done good.

One police department that has undergone significant change since the Michael Brown incident is the one in Ferguson itself. Derided five years ago for a paucity of African-American officers in a town that is majority black, Blakely said the force is now mostly African American. “That department has come a long way,” he said.

CBS News has gone through some dramatic changes this year. Norah O’Donnell took over as anchor on CBS Evening News July 15. Pegues calls her a “tough, tough interviewer.” Susan Zirinsky was named CBS News president in January. Pegues and Blakely said this week’s report is indicative of the culture at CBS News under Zirinsky.

CBS News began this investigation over a year ago, and said it contacted departments that police about a fifth of the U.S. population.

“The amount of resources and time devoted to the topic is pretty unprecedented,” said Pegues.

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.