A Justice Department investigation into law enforcement in Louisville, Kentucky that was launched following the death of Breonna Taylor has found civil rights violations, officials announced Wednesday.
The Justice Department says the “comprehensive” review determined that “the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (Louisville Metro) engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”
“The Department also announced that it has entered into an agreement in principle with Louisville Metro and LMPD, which have committed to resolving the department’s findings through a court-enforceable consent decree with an independent monitor, rather than contested litigation,” it said.
Attorney General Merrick Garland described some of the conduct by officers “unacceptable” and “heartbreaking.”
“Some officers have demonstrated disrespect for the people they are sworn to protect. Some have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, insulted people with disabilities, and called Black people monkeys, animal, and boy,” Garland said Wednesday at a press conference announcing the findings.
“This conduct is unacceptable. It is heartbreaking. It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing and it is an affront to the vast majority of officers who put their lives on the line every day to serve Louisville with honor,” he said. “And it is an affront to the people of Louisville who deserve better.”
The investigation was announced in 2021, one year after Breonna Taylor died when she was shot by a Louisville officer in her apartment who was executing a search warrant.
Among its findings, the Justice Department says LMPD:
“The Department also identified deficiencies in LMPD’s response to and investigation of domestic violence and sexual assault, including its responses to allegations that LMPD officers engaged in sexual misconduct or domestic violence,” it also said.
The report said officers were found to have tased people “multiple times without justification,” including an intoxicated white man for “refusing to pay his bill” at a bar and a Black Man who was “acting strange [and] dancing around” his own home while “clearly under the influence of some substance.”
“LMPD officers’ swift deployment of tasers even against people who pose no threat violates the Fourth Amendment,” it said.
“In addition to the higher levels of force, we also found that LMPD officers use takedowns, strikes, and other bodily force in ways that are unnecessary and unlawful,” the report also mentioned, noting “incidents where officers tackled individuals suspected of low-level crimes off of their bikes, throwing them onto the pavement with no apparent exigency.”
The nearly 100-page report issued Wednesday issues 36 recommendations that the Justice Department says will “provide a starting framework for changes that Louisville Metro and LMPD must make to improve public safety, build the trust of Louisville’s many communities, and comply with the Constitution and federal law.”
Those recommendations include revising use of force policies, improving training regarding knocking and announcing during search warrant executions and require documentation of all stops, including those that “do not lead to citations or arrests.”
The report also criticized “failures of leadership and accountability” the Justice Department says has allowed “unlawful conduct to continue unchecked.
“Even when city and police leaders announced solutions, they failed to follow through,” it said.
“We look forward to working with city and police leaders, officers, and the broader Louisville community to stop the unlawful practices, build trust, and ensure that Louisville Metro and LMPD serve and protect the people of Louisville,” the Justice Department said.