Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday detailed a report by the Department of Justice on the Louisville Metro government and the LMPD, finding “deficiencies” following the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor.
Taylor was killed in a botched police raid in March 13, 2020 when police, issuing a no-knock warrant, shot at the 26-year-old while she was in bed. The warrant was for a different address, and when police kicked in Taylor’s door, her boyfriend grabbed his legally-owned gun. In response police fired shots, killing Taylor.
During his press conference on Monday, Garland said members of the Louisville police community had told him “Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years.” Garland added, “The Justice Department’s findings, and the report that we are releasing today, bear that out.”
Among its conclusions, the DOJ found that “there is reasonable cause to believe” Louisville Metro and the LMPD “engage in a pattern of practice of conduct that violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution.”
“Specifically, the report finds that LMPD uses excessive force,” said Garland, “including unjustified neck restraints and the unreasonable use of police dogs and tasers; conducts searches based on invalid warrants; unlawfully execute warrants without knocking and announcing; unlawful stops, searches, detains and arrests [of] people; unlawfully discriminate against Black people in enforcement activities; violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech critical of policing.”
Garland pointed especially to “pretextual traffic stops in Black neighborhoods” that the LMPD use to investigate more serious alleged crimes.
More egregiously, Garland stated that some officers “videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, assaulted people with disabilities and called Black people ‘monkeys,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘boy.'”
“This conduct is unacceptable,” Garland insisted. “It is heartbreaking. It erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing.” He added that it is “an affront” to the vast majority of officers who serve with honor and to the people of Louisville.
Garland blamed Louisville Metro and LMPD brass for failing “to ensure that all employees uphold the Constitutional and statutory rights of the people of Louisville.” He added that the investigation had uncovered “deficient training, substandard facilities and equipment, inadequate support for officer mental health and wellness.”
The Attorney General did credit Louisville Metro and the LMPD for having made a number of changes as part of a settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, including the prohibition of no-knock warrants. “But,” he asserted, “more must be done.”
The DOJ has recommended 36 remedial measures that Garland said provide a starting framework for necessary changes in order to ensure public safety.
Garland thanked the citizens of the Louisville community who spoke with DOJ investigators, including religious leaders, advocates, criminal defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and service providers, many of whom described their encounters with police.
Speaking directly to the officers of the LMPD, Garland said, “it is imperative that your police department sets you up for success” by providing clear policies and sufficient training. “And you need supervisors and a chain of command that enables you to achieve the highest standards of your profession.”