The Department of Justice on Monday announced it will investigate the practices of the Louisville Metropolitan Police Department, which was heavily criticized following the killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman accidentally shot during a no-knock drug search last March.
“We will follow the facts and the law wherever they lead,” US attorney general Merrick Garland said on Monday announcing the probe, which will scrutinize the LMPD’s record on searches, stops, seizure, training, discipline, and response to protests.
This type of federal investigation is often the precursor to mutual agreements between local governments and the DOJ to reform policing practices. If findings of unlawful practices are made, and cities don’t reach an agreement with the DOJ on altering them, the Justice Department can bring a lawsuit to seek court-mandated changes.
Last week, the DOJ announced a similar “pattern or practice” investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department, following the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd..
“All of these steps will be taken with one goal in mind: to ensure that policing policy and practices are constitutional and lawful,” Mr Garland added. “That is the same goal of our investigation in Minneapolis, and of every pattern or practice investigation the department undertakes.”
More than a year after she was killed, Ms Taylor’s family said they were still seeking justice for victims of police brutality and changes within the LMPD.
“Today justice has been served but we are not fighting for justice for all of the victims and families for haven’t received theirs,” Tamika Palmer, Ms Taylor’s mother, said in reaction to the recent guilty verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. “This isn’t over.”
Kenneth Walker, Ms Taylor’s boyfriend, who was in the apartment with her the night she was killed and fired his gun at police in self-defense, also responded to the verdict recently, writing “LMPD take notes” on Facebook.
The Trump administration significantly reduced the use of federal and local law enforcement agreements, which are known as consent decrees, and only launched one pattern or practice investigation during its four years.
Following Ms Taylor’s death, the city of Louisville settled with the Taylor family for $12 million and banned no-knock warrants under a new provision called “Breonna’s Law.” This April, the state followed suit, with a partial ban on no-knock warrants.
These changes, however, are unlikely to affect what Black residents of Louisville say is a long history excessive policing that began well before Ms Taylor was killed.
The Louisville Courier Journal reported in 2019 that Black people were three times more likely to be searched during traffic stops than white people, six times more likely to be cited for marijuana possession, and shot by police at a rate nearly twice their share in the population.
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