DOJ report finds widespread discriminatory practices in Louisville police dept.

by mcardinal

The Louisville, Kentucky, police force routinely discriminates against black residents, uses excessive force and conducts illegal searches, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday, following a probe prompted by Breonna Taylor’s killing in 2020.

The department’s findings come nearly two years after U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland launched the civil rights probe into the department, whose officers shot Taylor dead after bursting into her apartment on a no-knock warrant, as well as the Louisville-Jefferson County government.

The probe found a wide-ranging pattern of misconduct by police, including using dangerous neck restraints and police dogs against people who posed no threat, and allowing the dogs to continuing biting people after they surrendered.

At a news conference, Garland said the department had reached a “consent decree” with the Louisville police, which will require the use of an independent monitor to oversee policing reforms.

“This conduct is unacceptable. It is heartbreaking. It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing,” Garland said. “And it is an affront to the people of Louisville, who deserve better.”

It is the first probe of U.S. policing begun and completed by the Biden administration, which had 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, drew national outrage and sparked the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020.

“I don’t even know what to say today. To know that this thing should never have happened and it took three years for anybody else to say that it shouldn’t have,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, told a news conference after the findings were released.

The investigation found the police department used aggressive tactics selectively against black people, who comprise roughly one in four Louisville residents, as well as other vulnerable people, such as those with behavioral health challenges.

Police cited people for minor offenses like wide turns and broken taillights, while serious crimes like sexual assault and homicide went unsolved, the probe found, adding minor offenses were used as a pretext to investigate unrelated criminal activity.

Some Louisville police officers were found to have filmed themselves insulting people with disabilities and describing black people as “monkeys,” the Justice Department said. It also stated that officers quickly resorted to violence.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenburg told reporters the Justice Department’s report brought back “painful memories” and vowed to implement reforms.

“Our city has wounds that have not yet healed and that’s why this report… is so important and so necessary,” he said.

Copyright 2023 Thomson/Reuters