U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the wide-ranging probe of the Louisville Metro Police Department at a Washington news conference Monday. Pool Photo by Mandel Ngan/UPI | License Photo
April 26 (UPI) -- The Justice Department on Monday launched a wide-ranging "pattern or practice" investigation of Louisville's police department in the wake of last year's police shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
The civil investigation into the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department is to determine "whether LMPD engages in a pattern or practice of violations of the Constitution or federal law," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference.
The investigation, he said, "will assess whether LMPD engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force, including with respect to people involved in peaceful expressive activities" as well as if it "engages in unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures" or "unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes."
Taylor was killed in her apartment by LMPD officers in March 2020 while they were executing a search warrant. Her death and that of George Floyd in Minneapolis three months later helped to spark a nationwide social justice movement.
Two Louisville detectives connected with the incident were fired in January, five months after Officer Brett Hankison was similarly dismissed for blindly firing 10 rounds into Taylor's apartment during the search.
In September, Hankison pleaded not guilty to three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment in charges brought by Jefferson County prosecutors.
Garland announced the Louisville "pattern or practice" investigation less than a week after launching a similar probe in Minneapolis, which was announced the day after a Hennepin County jury convicted former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin of murdering Floyd.
The Minneapolis investigation, Garland said, was supported by Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. Likewise, he said, the Louisville probe has the support of Mayor Greg Fischer and LMPD Chief Erika Shields.
"They, too, have pledged their support and cooperation," he said. "Louisville has already taken some steps towards reform through its settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, as well as through other measures. We commend those measures and our investigation will take them into account."
Under the probe, if the Justice Department concludes there is reasonable cause to believe there is a pattern or practice of constitutional or statutory violations, it will issue a public report and will "aim to work with the city and police department to arrive at a set of mutually agreeable steps" that can be taken to correct problems.
If an agreement cannot be reached, the department has the authority to bring a civil lawsuit seeking injunctive relief to address violations.
The investigation, Garland said, will be led by the department's civil rights division.
The Surrogate's Court building exterior remains vandalized while Occupy City Hall protests continue outside City Hall in New York City on June 30. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo