Mark Kappelhoff, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, has won the highest award from the U.S. Justice Department for leading two federal investigations of the Ferguson, Mo., police department following the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown.

Kappelhoff, a former federal prosecutor, received the Attorney General's Award for Exceptional Service on Wednesday at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. He shared the award with a team of 12 Justice Department employees who took part in the Ferguson investigations.

A federal criminal investigation ultimately cleared Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot Brown, an unarmed black teenager. But a separate civil investigation, also led by Kappelhoff, found a pattern of unconstitutional and discriminatory practices in the Ferguson police department.

Kappelhoff, 54, also oversaw investigations of police shootings in Baltimore, Charleston, S.C., and Cleveland while serving as deputy assistant attorney general during a leave of absence from the law school. He returned to teaching this fall.

"I'm humbled and honored to receive this award along with the other members of the team," he said. "At the end of the day, the real goal of this work is to rebuild the trust between the communities and the criminal justice system. That's what we strive for in these investigations."

Brown's death led to riots in the St. Louis suburb after local prosecutors decided not to file charges against the police officer, who later quit. The case was one of several high-profile police shootings that helped inspire the "Black Lives Matter" movement.

Kappelhoff spent 14 years with the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division before joining the U law school in 2012.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384