By Sarah N. Lynch and Rami Ayyub
WASHINGTON (RockedBuzz via Reuters) – Police forces in Louisville, Kentucky routinely discriminate against black residents, use excessive force and conduct illegal searches, the U.S. Justice Department said Wednesday, following an investigation into the killing by Breonna Taylor in 2020.
The department’s findings come nearly two years after US Attorney General Merrick Garland launched the civil rights investigation into the department, whose officers killed Taylor after breaking into her apartment with a no-knock warrant, so such as the Louisville-Jefferson County government.
The investigation found a wide-ranging pattern of police misconduct, including using dangerous neck restraints and police dogs against people who posed no threat, and allowing dogs to continue biting people after they they were surrendered.
In a press conference, Garland said the department has reached a “consensus decree” with the Louisville police that will require the use of an independent monitor to oversee police reforms.
“This conduct is unacceptable. It is heartbreaking. It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing,” Garland said. “And it’s an affront to the people of Louisville, who deserve better.”
It is the first US police investigation initiated and completed by the Biden administration, which promised to focus on racial justice in law enforcement after a spate of high-profile police killings of Black Americans. The deaths of Taylor and George Floyd, in particular, sparked national outrage and sparked Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.
“I don’t even know what to say today. Knowing this thing should never have happened and that it took three years for someone else to say it shouldn’t have,” Taylor’s mother Tamika Palmer said at a press conference after the results have been released.
The investigation found that the police department used aggressive tactics selectively against black people, who include about one in four Louisville residents, as well as other vulnerable people, such as those with behavioral health issues.
Police cited people for minor offenses such as large curves and broken taillights, while serious offenses such as sexual assault and homicide remained unsolved, the investigation found, adding that minor offenses were used as a pretext to investigate unrelated criminal activity .
Some Louisville police officers have even filmed themselves insulting people with disabilities and describing black people as “monkeys,” the Justice Department said. He also found that the officers quickly resorted to violence.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenburg told reporters the Justice Department report brought back “painful memories” and promised to implement reforms.
“Our city has wounds that have not yet healed and that’s why this relationship … is so important and so necessary,” he said.
Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was sleeping in bed with her boyfriend on March 13, 2020, when Louisville police executing a no-knock warrant raided her apartment.
Her boyfriend fired at them believing they were intruders and the police returned fire, fatally shooting Taylor.
The killings of Taylor and Floyd prompted the Justice Department in 2021 to open civil rights investigations, known as “model or practice” investigations, into the Louisville and Minneapolis police departments to determine whether they were engaged in systemic abuse. The results of the Minneapolis review have not yet been disclosed.
Under Garland’s leadership, the Justice Department has sought to reinvigorate its civil rights enforcement program, an area that civil rights advocates say has been left in tatters by former US President Donald Trump.
During the Trump administration, for example, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions moved to limit the use of consent decrees with police departments, saying they reduced morale.
The Justice Department has since reinstated its use and launched numerous civil rights investigations into police departments, local jails, and jails across the country.
The department’s 90-page investigative report recommended 36 measures for the Louisville Police, including revamping search warrant policies, new use-of-force training for officers, requiring body-worn cameras to be activated, documentation of all police stops and the improvement of civilian oversight.
In 2021, Garland also announced new policies for federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, that now prohibit them from conducting “no-knock” rumors like the one used against Taylor by local police.
In August, federal prosecutors indicted four current and former Louisville, Kentucky, police officers for their roles in the botched 2020 raid.
One of them, former Louisville detective Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges for helping to forge the search warrant that led to Taylor’s death.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, additional reporting by Rami Ayyub and Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Scott Malone and Deepa Babington)