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DOJ opens investigation into Louisville police, in search of ‘sample or follow of violations’

“Today’s announcement is based on an extensive review of publicly available information about LMPD conducted by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights division,” Garland said Monday. The announcement comes 13 months after the shooting and death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by police when officers “mistakenly” entered her home on March 13, 2020. According to Garland, prosecutors will speak with community leaders, residents and police officials to investigate whether a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct is present. The investigation will also take some changes implemented in the police department after a settlement with Taylor’s family into account.

Taylor’s death resulted in national uproar on the issue of “no knock” search warrants. Warrants that allow officers to enter a home without announcing their presence. According to the Associated Press, these warrants are generally used in drug cases or other investigations where officials believe should suspects know of their entry evidence will be destroyed. While a no-knock warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation, no drugs were found in Taylor’s home.

The way in which the LMPD receives search warrants has been questioned since Taylor’s case sparking protests worldwide. In the Taylor case, the detective who petitioned for a “no-knock” search warrant later acknowledged that information in his affidavit was not accurate. According to AP News, as a result of protests Kentucky lawmakers passed a partial ban on no-known warrants in March, which allows them to only be issued if “clear and convincing evidence” that the “crime alleged is a crime that would qualify a person, if convicted, as a violent offender”.

But Taylor’s death isn’t the only criticism the Louisville department has faced. According to WDRB, a 2018 video of a teenager being pulled over by officers also went viral and received criticism this year. In the video, officers can be seen handcuffing a man for nearly 20 minutes as his car is searched.  

“The relationship between law enforcement and our community has been deeply fractured and shattered by the lack of trust and the little-to-no accountability enforced when police commit a crime,” Derrick Johnson, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) said. “For far too long, killings at the hands of police have only led to one hashtag after another. But true justice comes with accountability and action … No police officer or police department is above the law.”

The investigation dubbed the “pattern or practice” investigation is the second of its kind announced within the last week by the Department of Justice. Last week, an investigation into Minneapolis police was announced, that investigation too will examine the practices and policies used by police and look into the department’s handling of misconduct allegations. How far back the investigation will go is unclear.

The investigation was sparked by the murder of George Floyd at the hands of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of all three charges he faced second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. “It is clear that the public officials in Minneapolis and Louisville, including those in law enforcement, recognize the importance and urgency of our efforts,” Garland said.

The Biden administration’s move to hold police departments accountable is a change from the Trump administration’s lack of involvement in policing matters. Trump’s administration stalled intervention and investigations in local policing matters, through the use of consent decrees, agreements that enabled judges to promise reform. Garland rescinded that policy  last month noting that the department would return to traditional practices of  investigating state and local police departments. Noting the lack of equal justice under the law, Garland promised to bring a critical eye to racism and legal issues as attorney general.

Calls to investigate the Louisville Police Department began as early as last May, however the Trump administration refused to respond making investigation’s unlikely. Following the annoucment, some Republicans expressed similar rhetrotic to the Trump administration, calling the investigation “not appropriate.”  “Well, certainly there have been significant challenges there in my hometown since the Breonna Taylor incident,” Mitch McConnell commented on the investigation to reporters. “And it’s certainly not inappropriate for the Justice Department to take a look at it.” But whether McConnell finds it appropriate or not, the investigations are happening. It is important to note however, that while the investigations are a step in the right direction, they take months to complete. 

As of this report no officers have been charged in connection with Taylor’s death. Only one of three officers involved in the shooting faced charges in September 2020, that too in connection with loose bullets going into a neighboring unit. A grand jury found that two other officers who fired into Taylor’s home were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. The former officer, Brett Hankison who was indicted will be tried in 2022, almost six months after the original trial was planned to take place.

The annoucment of the investigations into both Minneapolis police and Lousville police give hope to individuals that police accountability is possible and reform can happen. Taylor deserves justice and racial injustice must end.

Watch the entire annoucment below:

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