Federal civil rights investigators tasked with assessing and recommending reforms for the New Orleans Police Department are leading an investigation much larger in scope than other similar probes into municipal police forces, a top U.S. Justice Department official said Monday.

The Justice Department, as part of its patterns and practice investigation, is examining almost every facet of the local police force, from hiring practices to protocols for working off-duty paid details, according to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, head of the agency's civil rights division.

"The challenge with this case is that there are many different areas we are looking at," Perez said Monday in an interview with The Times-Picayune. "In most of our prior investigations, they were more narrowly focused because the challenges were more narrowly constrained."

The Justice Department investigation, which is expected to lead to a federal court consent decree that mandates specific changes within the department, began in early May. Although the federal agency was widely expected to initiate a civil investigation, the probe officially began at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

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