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Justice Department launches investigation into Louisville police department

Feds probe Louisville police after Breonna Taylor's shooting death
Department of Justice probes Louisville police after Breonna Taylor's shooting death 01:57

The Justice Department is opening a pattern and practice investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday. This is the second such investigation into policing practices unveiled by the department in less than a week. 

Last week, Garland announced a review of the Minneapolis Police Department the day after a jury in Hennepin County, Minnesota, found former MPD officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the death of George Floyd

"The investigation will assess whether LMPD engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force, including with respect to people involved in peaceful expressive activities," Garland said Monday. "It will determine whether LMPD engages in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures as well whether the department unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes." 

The Louisville Police Department has been in the national spotlight since the death of Breonna Taylor last year. Taylor, a 26-year-old Black medical worker, was shot to death by officers in the early hours of March 13, 2020. Taylor's boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said police did not announce their arrival and he fired a shot because he believed someone was trying to break in. 

Justice Department Breonna Taylor
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Department of Justice in Washington, Monday, April 26, 2021, as associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco. listen.  Mandel Ngan / AP

No officers have been charged directly for her death, but one, Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment while the other two officers who opened fire were fired but not charged. In September, the city of Louisville settled a lawsuit with Taylor's family for $12 million and agreed to police reforms.

The investigation will be led by the civil rights division and the Attorney's Office for the Western District of Kentucky. Garland said the review will include a "comprehensive review" of the Louisville police. 

Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields said at a press conference Monday after the announcement that she and Mayor Greg Fischer "welcomed" the investigation.

"I think that it's a good thing, I think that it's necessary because police reform is needed in every agency across the country," Shields said. 

Shields, who took over at the helm of the Louisville police in January, encouraged police officers to look at the investigation positively.

"This is your future, it is our future and we need to articulate what's worked and what hasn't worked so we can be afforded those resources and instances so we can be proud of who we are and proud of our performance day in and day out," Shields said.

Garland said the investigation into the Louisville police and the one into the Minneapolis police have the "same goal." 

Attorney general announces investigation of Louisville police department 06:38

Earlier this month Garland reinstated the use of consent decrees used in some cases as a resolution to federal probes of police departments, after it was rolled back by the Trump administration in 2018 under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Monday's announcement already doubles the number of investigations into policing practices undertaken by the previous administration. The Justice Department during the Trump presidency opened one such pattern and practice investigation into the Springfield Police Department in Massachusetts, concluding that their narcotics unit engaged in excessive force in violation of the 4th Amendment. 

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