The Department of Justice’s investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department found its officers engaged in a pattern of discrimination and excessive force.
The full federal investigation into Louisville Metro, which was conducted by the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, found that the department had a pattern of unconstitutional behavior including brutality, racism against Black people, and a proclivity to conduct searches on the basis of invalid warrants. The investigation was launched following the police raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot by Louisville officers in March 2020.
The review additionally found that officers in the department had frequently violated the rights of those "engaged in protected speech critical of policing," and some employees had used racial slurs when talking to or about Black citizens. The police department is 81 percent white, and is known to patrol predominantly Black neighborhoods.
"Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years," a Louisville Metro Police Department leader told federal investigators. As described in the report, it was said that officers' actions "do not happen in a vacuum" and added that "segregation, poverty, and violence" affected policing in Louisville. It does note that officers “have difficult jobs,” and there’s a lack of support and resources from the Jefferson County Metro government. In addition to that, the department had "deficient training, substandard facilities and equipment, and inadequate support for mental health and wellness."
Per the report, the LMPD has been accused of engaging in an “aggressive style of policing” that is deployed “selectively, especially against Black people” and other vulnerable communities. "LMPD cites people for minor offenses, like wide turns and broken taillights, while serious crimes like sexual assault and homicide go unsolved," the report reads. "Some officers demonstrate disrespect for the people they are sworn to protect. Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars; insulted people with disabilities; and called Black people 'monkeys,' 'animal,' and 'boy.' This conduct erodes community trust, and the unlawful practices of LMPD and Louisville Metro undermine public safety."
In a statement released on Wednesday, Breonna Taylor’s attorney Ben Crump said her family “is encouraged” by the report’s extensive critique of the department. “These findings, and LMPD’s expected cooperation with the DOJ’s recommended remedial measures, will help protect the citizens of Louisville and shape its culture of policing,” said Crump, per CNN. “It’s steps like these, and involvement of the Attorney General and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, that will move our nation forward and prevent future tragedies like the one that took the life of Breonna Taylor and the countless others who have been killed unnecessarily by law enforcement."
During a press conference on Wednesday, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg said that he is working with the department to “reform and improve how our police department operates."