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DOJ: Louisville police violated federal law, discriminated against Black people

United States Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on March 1. He announced the results of an investigation into the Louisville Police on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI
United States Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing at the U.S. Capitol on March 1. He announced the results of an investigation into the Louisville Police on Wednesday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo

March 8 (UPI) -- The Justice Department said Wednesday that it found the that Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville/Jefferson County Metro government violated the Constitution and federal law in various practices and dealing with the Black community.

The department said it has entered an agreement with the government and Police Department to address many of the issues, following an investigation launched in April 2021 under federal law that prohibits officers from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of rights.

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The findings announced Wednesday are separate from cases related to the death of African American first responder Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her home by Louisville police enforcing a no-knock warrant. The Justice Department had previously filed charges against four former officers involved in that 2020 incident.

"This unacceptable and unconstitutional conduct erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing," Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. "It is also an affront to the vast majority of officers who put their lives on the line to serve Louisville with honor. And it is an affront to the people of Louisville who deserve better."

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A statement by the department said they are committed to resolving its findings through a court-enforceable consent decree with an independent monitor, rather than contested litigation.

The department found the police had a pattern of using excessive force, police dogs and tasers; conducted searches based on invalid warrants; made unlawful stops and searches; discriminated against Black people in its enforcement activities; violated protected free speech activities; and discriminated against people with behavioral health disabilities.

"Our investigation found that the Police Department and city government failed to adequately protect and serve the people of Louisville, breached the public's trust, and discriminated against Black people through unjustified stops, searches, and arrests," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said in a statement.

"The police used excessive force, subjecting people to unlawful strikes, tasings, and canine bites. The police sought search warrants without justification and carried out no-knock warrants unlawfully, evading the Constitution, defying federal law, and putting ordinary citizens in harm's way. Today marks a new day and a new chapter for the people of Louisville."

The Justice Department made its announcement about its findings in Louisville on the same day that it agreed to review the Memphis Police Department on the heels of the death of Tyre Nichols while in the custody of authorities there in January. The officers in that case are facing criminal charges.

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