The Louisville, Kentucky, city government and police department conducted practices that violated the Constitution, according to a new investigation released Wednesday by the Department of Justice.
The Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department had patterns of unlawful practices, Attorney General Merrick Garland said during a press conference in Louisville on Wednesday. The DOJ investigation, the results of which Garland announced Wednesday, was launched after Louisville police officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor in 2020. That shooting sparked nationwide protests and calls for police reform.
In its report, the DOJ had “reasonable cause to believe” that the city government and police department engaged in “a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of their rights under the Constitution and federal law.”
“Police officers’ forcible and violent entry into a person’s home strikes at the heart of the constitutional protection against unreasonable government intrusion,” the report stated. “But Louisville Metro’s and LMPD’s unlawful conduct did not start in 2020.”
Some of the LMPD’s unconstitutional practices included unjustified neck restraints, unreasonable uses of dogs and tasers, unlawful searches without knocking or announcing or searches with invalid warrants, unlawful practices during traffic and pedestrian stops, and discrimination against Black people and people with behavioral health disabilities, among other patterns.
The report also found the Louisville Police Department’s response to sexual assault and domestic violence were deficient. These deficiencies included the LMPD’s responses to sexual assault and domestic violence allegations against officers.
Officers called Black people “monkeys,” “animal” and “boy” and insulted people with disabilities, Garland said. He added that officers were seen videotaping themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians out of their cars.
“This unacceptable and unconstitutional conduct erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing,” Garland said. “It is also an affront to the vast majority of officers who put their lives on the line to serve Louisville with honor. The Justice Department will work closely with Louisville Metro and LMPD to negotiate toward a consent decree and durable reforms that protect both the safety and civil rights of Louisville’s residents.”
The DOJ said Louisville Metro and LMPD fully cooperated in the investigation and agreed to resolve the department’s findings through a “court-enforceable consent decree with an independent monitor.” The DOJ will host a virtual community meeting on Wednesday at 7 p.m. to discuss the findings.
The investigation did not look at specific instances or individuals but rather looked holistically at the departments, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said during the press conference.
“People in Louisville deserve policing that is constitutional, fair and non-discriminatory,” Clarke said. “Our investigation found that the police department and city government failed to adequately protect and serve the people of Louisville, breached the public’s trust, and discriminated against Black people through unjustified stops, searches, and arrests.”
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