Attorney General Merrick Garland says civil rights investigations have documented excessive violence and bias against black residents.
United States Attorney General Merrick Garland has announced that a government investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) following the 2020 death of Breonna Taylor has revealed a culture of excessive force and systematic violations of civil rights .
The investigation also documented instances of the use of invalid warrants, illegal traffic stops as a pretext for searches, and discrimination against black and disabled residents.
At a news conference on Wednesday, Garland said the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would negotiate with the city for a “consent decision” to address the findings and implement reforms.
“Shortly after we opened the investigation, an LMPD leader told the department that Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems we’ve had for years,” Garland said. “The findings of the Department of Justice and the report we are releasing today confirm that.”
The announcement comes amid scrutiny into the culture and practices of US policing, particularly in the wake of several high-profile deaths, particularly in the black community.
Louisville, Kentucky was the site of a deadly 2020 shooting that sparked widespread outrage.
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician, was in her apartment in March 2020 when police executed a “no-knock” order shortly after midnight and entered her home with little warning.
Believing the apartment was under attack, Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a gun and police returned fire. Taylor died in the ensuing gunfire.
The deaths of Taylor and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota sparked protests across the country over racial discrimination and police tactics.
No-knock warrants are a controversial but widespread practice in the US police force. Garland banned their use by federal law enforcement agencies in 2021. Louisville and the state of Kentucky have also taken steps to ban or limit the use of no-knock warrants.
Garland said Wednesday that the investigation found that some Louisville police officers conducted searches based on invalid warrants and others were executed unlawfully, without prior warning before police forcefully entered a room.
The DOJ is also pursuing criminal cases related to Taylor’s death, separate from Wednesday’s findings. Four current and former Louisville police officers were charged with federal crimes, including conspiracy and making a false statement to obtain the search warrant for Taylor’s apartment.
Garland has said the order was based on “false and misleading” information.
The botched raid on Taylor’s apartment resulted in no evidence of criminal activity, and in 2022 former Detective Kelly Goodlett pleaded guilty to federal charges that she helped to forge the search warrant.
The murders of Taylor in Louisville and Floyd in Minneapolis led to “pattern or practice investigations” by the DOJ in their respective police departments in 2021.
The Minneapolis probe’s findings have yet to be released.
“To the people of Louisville, you have demonstrated a meaningful commitment to reform issues,” Garland said Wednesday. “Together we can make real progress and ensure the sustainability of reforms.”