WASHINGTON (AP) -- Attorney General Eric Holder said Wednesday that there was an obvious need for "wholesale change" in the Ferguson, Missouri, police department.
The Justice Department is investigating the practices of the police department following the Aug. 9 police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old, Michael Brown. That investigation focuses on alleged patterns of racial discrimination by the overwhelmingly white police department.
Local and federal authorities are also continuing to investigate the shooting of Brown by Officer Darren Wilson for potential criminal charges.
At the Washington Ideas Forum, Holder would not say what the reforms should be, but said the need for "wholesale change" was clear.
A government official confirmed that there are discussions among Missouri officials about having Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson step down as part of efforts to change the department. The official was not authorized to discuss those talks by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.
The police department posted on its Twitter account that Jackson had not resigned and had not been asked to resign.
During a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Holder was also asked about his 2009 characterization of the country as a "nation of cowards" when it comes to racial matters. He said he stood by those remarks and that the country was "still reluctant to talk about matters of race."
The session was briefly interrupted by a heckler who demanded to know when the Justice Department would "prosecute the torturers," an apparent reference to the CIA's interrogation of terror suspects. A department investigation of the matter closed without any prosecutions.