A protester holding a placard expressing her opinion in
LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, UNITED STATES - 2021/03/13: A protester holding a placard expressing her opinion in front of police during a memorial march from Jefferson Square Park to mark the one year anniversary since the Louisville Metro Police Department shot and killed Breonna Taylor at her home in Louisville. The protesters call the park, Injustice Square Park. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
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Department of Justice to Investigate Louisville Police Over Use of Force, Discriminatory Tactics

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday announced a "pattern or practice" investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department, which has faced intense scrutiny and criticism in the 13 months since officers of the department killed Breonna Taylor inside her own apartment as they served a no-knock warrant.

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The decision, announced Monday, April 26th, comes just days after the DOJ announced a similar investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department. Cops in Louisville and Minneapolis were at the center of the two highest instances of police brutality that sparked nationwide protests last year: Derek Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the killing of Breonna Taylor during a botched raid in Louisville.

“Today, the Justice Department is opening a civil investigation into the Louisville-Jefferson County metro government and the Louisville Metro Police Department to determine whether LMPD engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the constitution or federal law,” Garland said at a press conference.

As the Louisville Courier Journal notes, Garland, at a press conference, did not say that the investigation was prompted specifically by Taylor’s death. He did, however, acknowledge the city’s $12 million settlement with her family.

“There are approximately 18,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in this country,” Garland said in a statement. “In each one, dedicated officers put themselves in harm’s way to protect others. Promoting public trust between communities and law enforcement is essential to making both communities and policing safer. Our enforcement efforts, as well as our grant-making and other support, will contribute to achieving that end and to protecting the civil rights of everyone in our country.”

“The investigation will assess whether LMPD engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force, including with respect to people involved in peaceful, expressive activities. It will determine whether LMPD engages in unconstitutional stops searches and seizures, as well as whether the department unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes,” Garland said.

The investigation will reportedly examine all types of force used by LMPD officers, specifically tactics on people with behavioral health issues and ostensibly protestors, who were referred to as “individuals engaged in activities protected by the First Amendment.” Investigators will also look at whether the LMPD conducts unreasonable stops, searches, seizures and arrests during patrols and while obtaining search warrants

“It will also assess whether LMPD engages in discriminatory conduct on the basis of race or fails to provide public services that comply with the Americans with Disability Act. Investigation will include comprehensive review of the Louisville Police Department’s policies and training. It will also assess the effectiveness of LMPD supervision of officers and systems of accountability,” he added.

Garland said that if violations are found, the department will “aim to work with the city and police department to arrive at a set of mutually agreeable steps that they can take to correct and prevent unlawful patterns or practices.”

“If an agreement cannot be reached, the Justice Department has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to address the violations,” he said.

The DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, which will head up the investigation, also plans to review the LMPD’s policies, training and supervision, as well as the systems of accountability in place for police officers. Investigators will be speaking with community groups and residents about their experiences with the police as well.

Garland said during his press conference that Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Metro Council President David James had “pledged their support and cooperation” with the investigation. Garland added, “We will follow the facts and the law wherever they lead,” he said. “If violations are found, the Justice Department will aim to work with the city and police department to arrive at a set of mutually agreeable steps that they can take to correct and prevent unlawful patterns or practices.”

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