The U.S. Justice Department issued a scathing review of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) on Wednesday following an investigation that was prompted by the death of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor nearly three years ago.
The investigation found that the LMPD used excessive force on a regular basis, conducted searches based on invalid warrants and unlawfully discriminated against Black people in enforcement activities.
“For years, LMPD has practiced an aggressive style of policing that it deploys selectively, especially against Black people, but also against vulnerable people throughout the city,” the report states.
Additionally, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division found that police violated the rights of those who “engaged in protected speech critical of policing” and that some officers used racial slurs to refer to Black people.
“LMPD cites people for minor offenses, like wide turns and broken taillights, while serious crimes like sexual assault and homicide go unsolved,” the report added. “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.'”
Louisville police use “unreasonable tactics,” including unjustified neck restraints, police dogs and tasers, DOJ found. The report also found that the police department unlawfully executes search warrants without knocking and announcing.
The NAACP was stern in its response to the damning report. In a statement provided to ESSENCE, the renowned civil rights organization asserted: “While Congress continues to fail our country with police reform, at least the Department of Justice is taking their jobs seriously. Today marks a meaningful step toward police accountability and — should Congress now decide to step up — police reform. The findings from their investigation into the Louisville Police Department provide clear evidence for what we’ve already known – we are dealing with a rotten tree, not a few bad apples.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland called the conduct revealed by the investigation “heartbreaking” and “unacceptable.” He also noted that such behavior breaks down the community trust needed for effective policing and is an insult to police officers who do serve and protect with honor as well as the people of Louisville who should be treated better.
The investigation in Louisville came after the botched police raid that resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor in March 2020. The investigation by the DOJ was not a criminal probe but instead looked at broader, systemic issues in the police department.
“Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years,” one LMPD leader told federal investigators. The report said that police officers’ actions “do not happen in a vacuum” and pointed out that “segregation, poverty, and violence” affected policing in the racially segregated city.
The LMPD and Louisville/Jefferson County Metro government “have not given officers and other employees the support and resources they need to do their jobs effectively and lawfully,” according to the report, which also notes that officers “have difficult jobs.” They also had “inadequate training, subpar facilities and equipment, and inadequate support for mental health and wellness,” the report claims.
According to Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg, he and Louisville Metro Police interim chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel “are taking action to reform and improve the way our police department operates.”
“The U.S. Department of Justice is demanding that we take action. The people of Louisville are demanding that we take action,” said Greenberg.