The Justice Department announced Wednesday that it is opening a probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, over the death of Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed when police entered her home during a raid last year.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said, “As I explained last week, Congress has authorized the department to conduct pattern or practice investigations,” adding that such investigations and the actions that come from them not only protect the civil rights of individuals but “also assist police departments in developing measures to increase transparency and accountability. Those qualities are necessary to building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve. And community trust is essential to making policing more effective and less dangerous for officers on the street.”
Garland continued, “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. Today’s announcement is based on an extensive review of publicly available information about LMPD conducted by the Justice Department civil rights division.”
Garland said that the investigation is meant to determine “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.
“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 Disabilit[ies] Act. The investigation will include a comprehensive review of the Louisville Police Department’s policies and training. It will also assess the effectiveness of LMPD’s supervision of officers and systems of accountability.”
Last year, the Breonna Taylor case gained national attention as protesters and rioters took to the streets in opposition to a grand jury’s decision to indict only one officer in the incident.
As The Daily Wire reported, “[Kentucky Attorney General Daniel] Cameron noted that witness testimony indicated officers appeared to correctly execute a search warrant on Taylor’s apartment in connection with a drug case and that the two other officers involved in an ensuing shootout with Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were justified in their use of force because Walker fired first.”
The probe announced Monday is the second type of investigation the Justice Department put forward in recent days. On Wednesday, Garland announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department following the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
Last week, a jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter in relation to the death of George Floyd.
Garland discussed the trial in his announcement.
“Although the state’s prosecution was successful, I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death. My heart goes out to them and to all those who have experienced similar loss,” he said. “I know such wounds have deep roots and that too many communities have experienced those wounds firsthand.”
The investigation, similar to the probe into the LMPD, “will assess whether the Minneapolis Police Department engages in a pattern or practice of using excessive force, including during protests. The investigation will also assess whether the MPD engages in discriminatory conduct and whether its treatment of those with behavioral health disabilities is unlawful.”
Garland added that the Justice Department had “begun to reach out to community groups and members of the public to learn about their experiences with the MPD. We also seek to hear from the department’s officers about the training and support they receive because their perspective is essential.”
“All these voices will help provide investigators the information they need to conduct a comprehensive assessment,” he said. “All these voices will be critical to the reform efforts that will follow if the investigation determines the existence of constitutional or statutory violations.”
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