Louisville police violated constitutional rights, Justice Department says
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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday announced the Justice Department found there is “reasonable cause to believe” the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Kentucky city’s government engaged in a pattern of conduct that violated citizens’ constitutional and civil rights, following an investigation prompted by the 2020 death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor.
The Justice Department, the city of Louisville and the LMPD have agreed in principle toward a consent degree, and Garland said the LMPD has made strides to improve its practices since then. Taylor, a Black woman, was fatally shot in her Louisville apartment in March 2020 when police officers forcefully entered her apartment during a botched raid. The Justice Department has charged multiple LMPD officers over her death.
“Shortly after we opened the investigation, an LMPD leader told the department, “Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years.’ The Justice Department’s findings and the report that we are releasing today bear that out,” Garland said during an announcement in Louisville.
The Justice Department report, Garland said, found that LMPD “uses excessive force” including neck restraints, conducts searches based on “invalid warrants,” “unlawfully executes warrants” without first knocking and announcing, “discriminates” against Black people, and “discriminates” against people with behavioral health issues. The DOJ report, Garland said, also identified deficiencies in the police department’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault calls. The DOJ also found LMPD has relied on traffic stops in Black neighborhoods, using a pretense of minor traffic offenses to investigate other potential crimes, Garland said.
“This conduct is unacceptable,” Garland said. “It is heartbreaking. It errodes the community trust necessary for effective policing.”
Garland said such practices and behavior are also an affront to the Louisville community, and to the “vast majority” of officers who put their lives on the line to serve the city with honor.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, who assumed office earlier this year, along with the city’s new police chief, issued a detailed response and said they will “do everything possible and everything necessary to correct the mistakes of the past and heal the wounds they’ve left in our community.”
“You deserved better,” Greenberg wrote. “We can and will do better. We are committed to putting reforms in place that will raise the department’s standards and ensure constitutional and effective policing that reduces crime and improves public safety. … This report paints a painful picture of LMPD’s past. But it helps point us in the right direction for our future — and to the next phase in the process of police reform in Louisville. That phase begins now.”
The Louisville Metro Police Department said they received the Justice Department report, and LMPD command staff will thoroughly review it.