A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

DOJ report shows Louisville police routinely engaged in conduct that violated people’s civil rights

By Nadia Ramlagan
Public News Service

The Louisville Metro Police Department engaged in patterns of conduct that violated people’s civil rights, said a U.S. Department of Justice report released this week.

The result of a nearly two-year-long investigation, the document outlines repeated excessive use of force and unlawful search warrants.

The Department of Justice charged four current and former Louisville Metro Police Department officers for the 2020 shooting death of Louisville resident Breonna Taylor. (Adobe Stock image, via PNS)

Corey Shapiro, legal director for the ACLU of Kentucky, said for years officers have targeted Black people for minor offenses such as wide turns and broken taillights, while serious crimes such as sexual assault and homicide went unsolved. He pointed out officers videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars, insulted people with disabilities, and called Black people “monkeys,” “animal” and “boy.”

“The style of policing that LMPD engaged in was very aggressive, very targeted against Black people, and also against vulnerable people like those with disabilities,” Shapiro stated.

The report also highlighted the city’s flawed accountability system for addressing misconduct by its officers. Since the 2020 shooting death of Breonna Taylor by police, the city has implemented some reforms, including banning no-knock search warrants.

Shapiro notes it is likely the city will enter into a consent decree with the Justice Department, requiring the police department to make legally enforceable changes. He believes city officials also need to reckon with the affected communities and involve them directly in the solution-building process.

“The Black community, which has been harmed and essentially terrorized for years, the city needs to look to them and find out what are the solutions that they want,” Shapiro urged.

The Louisville Metro Police Department report is one of eight investigations into law enforcement agencies opened by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, including the Minneapolis Police Department, the Phoenix Police Department, and the Louisiana State Police.

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