WASHINGTON – The Justice Department hasinto whether the Louisville Metro Police Department engaged in a pattern of civil rights abuses amid a nationwide reckoning after the death of Breonna Taylor.
The investigation will examine whether Louisvilleused excessive force during peaceful protests and engaged in unconstitutional stops, searches, and seizures. It will also investigate how the against people based on race.
Merrick Garland did not say whether Taylor’s death prompted the investigation, although he acknowledged the $12 million settlement the city has reached with Taylor’s family. The inquiry is separate from a that’s also ongoing.
Policing under Biden: Police oversight languished under Trump. Biden’s DOJ is bringing federal inquiries back.
“We will follow the facts and the law wherever they lead,” Garland said Monday. Taylor, 26, an emergency room technician, wasduring a botched raid on March 13, 2020. Louisville police officers, serving a no-knock search warrant as part of a narcotics investigation, inside Taylor’s apartment after one of the officers was shot and injured. Taylor, who was unarmed and was not the main target of the investigation, was shot six times.
Speaking to, Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, acknowledged there have been “significant challenges” in his since Taylor’s death, and it’s “not inappropriate for the Justice Department. To take a look at it.” In September, a Kentucky grand jury indicted one of three Louisville , but none were charged for Taylor’s death. Brett Hankison was charged with shooting outside Taylor’s apartment, sending bullets into a neighboring unit.
Taylor’s death and those of other Black citizens at the hands of police prompted months-long protests for racial justice and nationwide calls for police accountability. Garland said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields had been told of the new investigation and are cooperating. Shields told reporters Monday that she welcomes the opportunity to “quicken the pace” of police reform in Louisville.
The Justice Department under Garland is moving swiftly to reinvigorate federal oversight of police departments after it languished during the Trump administration. came days after Garland announced a similar, far-reaching investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department. That inquiry, prompted by the murder of at the hands of former police officer Derek Chauvin, will examine officers’ excessive use of force, discriminatory actions involving suspects with mental health problems, department training policies, and supervision.
Policing under Biden: DOJ launches inquiry into Minneapolis police operations a day after.
Justice Department intervention in local policing was stalled mainly during the. Still, Garland reversed that policy earlier this month, signaling that the Biden administration intends to investigate police departments accused of civil rights violations more aggressively amid deepening distrust of .
A memo issued by Garland rescinded a previous directive by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that ordered Justice Department attorneys to limit the use of so-called consent decrees, which are court-enforced agreements that allow federal judges to ensure promised reforms are underway.
Consent decrees often reached after a federal investigation into localhave been a concern among law enforcement leaders. One issue is using monitors, who judge appoint to oversee consent decrees.
Chuck Wexler, chief executive of the think-tank Police Executive Research Forum, said the lack of standing on what monitors do and how long their tenures last lead to consent decrees that have stretched for years and have become a burden on local budgets.
“Our concern has never been the investigation. Our concern has been the unwieldy process, which goes on forever,” Wexler said, adding that Justice Department investigations have helped departments get more resources to institute reforms. But, “that can go from an advantage to overly cumbersome.”
Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta will review the use of monitors and provide recommendations. Last May, then-U.S. Sen. and Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia requested the Justice Department open an investigation into Louisville police. Still, the agency during the Trump administration indicated an immediate was unlikely.
Contributing: Darcy Costello, The Louisville Courier-Journal, and Kevin Johnson,