The US Justice Department on Monday launched a probe of the Louisville, Kentucky, police department whose officers last year shot and killed Black woman Breonna Taylor during a botched raid, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.
The news marked the second such investigation in a week launched by the Justice Department. Last Wednesday, it began a similar review of the Minneapolis Police Department after its former officer, Derek Chauvin, was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
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The investigations are known as a “pattern or practice” — examining whether there is a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing — and will be more sweeping reviews of the entire police departments.
“The investigation will assess whether LMPD [Louisville Metropolitan Police Department] engages in a pattern or practice of using … unreasonable force,” including during “peaceful” protests, Garland said at Monday’s news conference. “It will determine whether LMPD engages in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures as well as whether the department unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes.”
The 26-year-old Taylor, an emergency medical technician who had been studying to become a nurse, was roused from sleep by police in March 2020 who came through the door using a battering ram. Her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired once. A no-knock warrant was approved as part of a narcotics investigation. No drugs were found at her home.
Taylor bled to death in the hallway of her home.
Her death prompted a national debate about the use of so-called “no knock” search warrants, which allow officers to enter a home without waiting and announcing their presence. The warrants are generally used in drug cases and other sensitive investigations where police believe a suspect might be likely to destroy evidence. But there’s been growing criticism in recent years that the warrants are overused and abused.
Kentucky’s lawmakers passed a partial ban on no-knock warrants last month, which the state’s governor signed into law on April 9.
The Justice Department investigations of the Louisville and Minneapolis police mark a sharp turn in the department’s priorities under Democratic President Joe Biden, who has made racial justice a priority.
The deaths of Floyd and Taylor, both of whom were Black, helped spark nationwide protests against racism and police brutality.
Only one of three officers involved in the Taylor shooting has faced charges, although none of the charges are for the death of Taylor.
However, officials at the FBI and the Louisville US Attorney’s office have been investigating other officers involved in the shooting, a law enforcement official told the Reuters news agency.
The Louisville Police Department did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.
Former President Donald Trump’s administration sharply curtailed the use of court-enforcement agreements to prevent police departments from violating peoples’ civil rights.
Garland rescinded that policy on Friday, saying the department would be returning to its traditional practices of investigating state and local police departments and allowing unit heads to approve most settlements and consent decrees.