THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT FINDS GROSS PATTERN OF DISCRIMINATORY AND ABUSIVE BEHAVIOR IN THE LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY, POLICE DEPARTMENT PROMPTED BY AN INVESTIGATION COMING FROM BREONNA TAYLOR’S DEATH
The review, undertaken after a specialized unit killed Breonna Taylor in a botched raid in 2020, paints a damning portrait of a department in crisis.
WASHINGTON — The police department in Louisville, Ky., engaged in a far-ranging pattern of discriminatory and abusive law enforcement practices, the Justice Department said on Wednesday after conducting a two-year investigation prompted by the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by the police in 2020.
In a damning 90-page report, investigators painted a grim portrait of the Louisville Metro Police Department, detailing a variety of serious — at times shocking — misconduct. They included the use of excessive force; searches based on invalid and so-called no-knock warrants; unlawful car stops, detentions and harassment of people during street sweeps; and broad patterns of discrimination against Black people and those with behavioral health problems.
The conduct of the police department “has undermined its public safety mission and strained its relationship with the community it is meant to protect and serve,” Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said at a news conference in Louisville, appearing alongside the city’s mayor and acting police chief. “This conduct is unacceptable. It is heartbreaking.”
The Justice Department’s findings, he said, were succinctly captured by an unnamed Louisville police leader shortly after the investigation began: “Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years.”
The findings in Louisville, released amid a backlash against a reform movement galvanized by police killings and beatings of Black people, served as a reminder of the dysfunction that still afflicts law enforcement agencies. Nor will it be the last: The Justice Department is investigating similar complaints about discriminatory practices in Minneapolis, New York, Oklahoma City, Mount Vernon, N.Y., Phoenix, Worcester, Mass., and Louisiana.
Ms. Taylor, an emergency room technician, was shot and killed by police officers assigned to a drug enforcement unit in March 2020 during a botched raid of her apartment. Her death prompted protests across the nation and calls for police reform.
The Justice Department interviewed hundreds of officers and community members, assessed body camera video from dozens of officers and reviewed hundreds of incidents. The 1,000-member police department is responsible for the city of Louisville and surrounding metropolitan region, a majority-white area with segregated pockets of predominantly Black neighborhoods. The force is about 80 percent white, the report noted.
Mr. Garland said investigators uncovered instances of blatant racism against Black residents, including the disproportionate use of traffic stops in Black neighborhoods and the hurling of epithets like “monkey,” “animal” and “boy.”
Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, said that the targeting of Black people for traffic stops and searches turned conventional law enforcement practices into “weapons of oppression, submission and fear.”
But the inquiry uncovered an endemic pattern of dysfunction that went far beyond racial discrimination, finding widespread problems in the way the police handled investigations of domestic violence and sexual assault cases, including allegations of misconduct by law enforcement officers.
The Killing of Breonna Taylor
The death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman, in March 2020 fueled national protests over police brutality.
- What Happened: Ms. Taylor was shot by police in Louisville, Ky., during a botched drug raid. Here is what to know about her death.
- The Victim: The 26-year-old woman hoped to become a nurse. An ex-boyfriend’s run-ins with the law entangled her as she tried to move on.
- The Aftermath: In 2022, federal officials charged four current and former officers for crimes including violating Ms. Taylor’s rights and lying on the search warrant used to search her home. Kelly Goodlett was the first officer to be convicted after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy.
- A Damning Assessment: After conducting a two-year investigation prompted by the death of Ms. Taylor, the Justice Department said that it had uncovered a pattern of discriminatory and abusive law enforcement practices within the police department in Louisville.
One woman told the Justice Department she had informed police officials that a narcotics detective was extorting sex from her daughter and two other women he had accused of drug possession. The accusation was labeled “unfounded” — but proved to be true five years later, when three more women came forward with similar accusations. The detective resigned but was never prosecuted.
The Justice Department praised the dedication of the units responsible for investigating domestic violence incidents and sexual assaults, but said their work was undermined by budget cuts that consolidated disparate divisions, leading to increased caseloads and forcing detectives to investigate crimes for which they had no training.
The abuse, Ms. Clarke said, extended to people with mental illness in the city, who were mistreated and mocked by officers. She cited one example in which a man with behavioral issues was arrested 25 times in two years, and in some of his encounters, the police “needlessly escalated the situation and used unreasonable force.” He later died in custody.
To read more, click here: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/03/08/us/politics/louisville-police-breonna-taylor-justice-dept.html