(WASHINGTON) — A nearly two-year civil rights investigation into the Louisville, Kentucky, police department and Louisville Metro Government, touched off by the killing of Breonna Taylor, found the city and law enforcement engaged in a pattern of unlawful and discriminatory conduct, depriving people of their constitutional liberties, the Department of Justice announced on Wednesday.
The DOJ launched its pattern or practice investigation into the Louisville police in April 2021, more than a year after the botched raid that resulted in Taylor’s shooting death in her home, which spurred nationwide protests along with the murder of George Floyd in Minnesota.
According to the DOJ’s report released Wednesday, one police leader told investigators that Taylor’s death “was a symptom of problems that we have had for years.”
The DOJ’s review, based on hundreds of interviews, thousands of documents and thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage, found Louisville officers routinely used excessive force in arrests, including unjustified neck restraints and wrongful use of police dogs and tasers.
The police department also conducted searches based on “invalid warrants,” the review found, and officers unlawfully executed search warrants without knocking and announcing.
“For years, [the Louisville police department] has practiced an aggressive style of policing that it deploys selectively, especially against Black people, but also against vulnerable people throughout the city,” the report stated. “Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars; insulted people with disabilities; and called Black people ‘monkeys,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘boy.'”
The federal review found police officers conducted unlawful stops and arrests of suspects and that the department routinely discriminated against Black people in their enforcement actions. The department and city also were found to have discriminated against people who had behavioral health disabilities when they were in crisis, the report stated.
“This conduct erodes community trust, and the unlawful practices of LMPD and Louisville Metro undermine public safety,” federal investigators wrote in the report.
The investigation further found that Louisville police leaders “endorsed and defended” unlawful conduct by their officers, with some supervisors accused of defending instances of obviously excessive force or search warrants that lacked probable cause.
Last August, Garland announced civil rights charges against four Louisville police officers for a range of alleged offenses in connection with Taylor’s death, including unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction.
One of those officers, former Louisville Detective Kelly Goodlett, has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate Taylor’s civil rights while the others, Sgt. Kyle Meany and Joshua Jaynes and Brett Hankison, both former detectives, have pleaded not guilty.
The DOJ expects to continue working with Louisville police and the city government on a host of reforms to their law enforcement practices, including some that have already been implemented in the years following Taylor’s killing.
The newly released report outlines more than 30 recommendations for the department and city to implement, including structural changes to its use-of-force policies and reporting and an overhaul of their training protocols.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
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