The Bush administration on Monday formally opened an investigation of the Cincinnati police department following last month's shooting of an unarmed black man.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who was traveling in the southwestern United States visiting Border Patrol sites, issued a statement announcing "a pattern or practice" probe of the Cincinati Police Department."

The investigation by Ashcroft's department comes in the wake of meetings that attorneys with Justice's Civil Rights Division had with Cincinnati Mayor John Shirey and Police Chief Thomas Streicher.

"The (Justice) department will conduct a thorough and independent review of Cincinnati Police Department's policies and practices," Ashcroft's statement said.

"Our focus will be on assisting the city to solve its problems and rebuild trust among the citizens of Cincinnati. Trust is necessary for any police department to effectively protect citizens."

The statement added: "The Department of Justice will enforce the law to protect Americans' civil rights and also wll work cooperatively with the city to institute policing reforms as quickly as possible."

The shooting of Timothy Thomas, 19, by a white police officer on April 7 resulted in violence, in which dozens of people were injured and more than 800 were arrested over a three-day period last month.