Louisville Police have pattern of excessive force and discrimination, DOJ says

By Adrienne Vogt, Mike Hayes, Aditi Sangal and Elise Hammond, CNN

Updated 4:10 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023
13 Posts
Sort byDropdown arrow
3:41 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

State leaders call for lasting change after Justice Department investigation into Louisville Police

Kentucky leaders are showing their support for the Department of Justice's findings following an investigation into the Louisville Police Department and are calling for lasting change.

Rep. Morgan McGarvey, who represents the state's 3rd Congressional District which includes almost all of the city of Louisville, said in a statement on Twitter that the report confirmed police "consistently violated people's constitutional and civil rights."

He said the DOJ investigation and report a "long overdue step in the right direction to hold our law enforcement accountable," but called for steps at the federal level, including passing the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, the Mental Health Justice Act and nationally banning no-knock warrants.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said in a tweet that "a vast majority" of law enforcement in the state "protects & serves the Commonwealth with dignity & honor." He added he hopes the DOJ and city officials "will help address lingering concerns."

Gov. Andy Beshear called the findings concerning, but he hopes it can be an opportunity for the city.

"My hope is that everyone in Louisville will come together and see the findings of this report as an urgent opportunity to take intentional steps for positive, lasting change," he said in a tweet.

4:06 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Louisville and the police department agree to negotiate a consent decree with the DOJ. Here's what that means

An American flag waves outside the US Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC in 2020.
An American flag waves outside the US Department of Justice Building in Washington, DC in 2020. (Tom Brenner/Reuters)

Now that the federal government has presented its findings about what was happening within the Louisville Police Department, the next step is aimed at making sure things actually change, according to analysis from Darrin Porcher, a retired New York Police Department lieutenant.

That next step is a consent decree — a court-enforced settlement aimed at reforming law enforcement.

Garland ended restrictions on consent decrees in 2021 to make it easier to hold police departments accountable after years of civil unrest due to the police-involved killings of Black men and women across the country. The previous policy limited when the Justice Department could use them.

With a consent decree, a judge can keep tabs on a police department to make sure it’s in compliance with the court-ordered agreement.

The Justice Department said it entered into an agreement with the Louisville Metro Police Department, "which have committed to resolving the department's findings" and will include an independent, third-party monitor

"What the federal government does with these consent decrees is they make a series of recommendations," Porcher said, but added in many instances they don't have the intended outcome.

"However, there's not a lot of teeth attached to this," he said.

The municipality will have to pay for the recommendations outlined in the report such as more training and additional resources, for example, Porcher said. Many times, cities don't have the money to follow through with the changes "and on many instances, these consent decrees don't accomplish anything," he added

In Louisville, the Justice Department is recommending 36 remedial measures as part of its consent decree with the city, including assessing specialized units and pairing mental health professionals with officers.

CNN's Christina Carrega contributed to this report.

1:51 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Breonna Taylor's family attorney says Louisville police "have terrorized our city"

From CNN’s Celina Tebor

An attorney for the family of Breonna Taylor, who was killed by Louisville police in 2020, said the newly released report from the Department of Justice reveals what people in the community "have known for years."

The Louisville Metro Police Department "have terrorized our city and have been protected every step of the way," Sam Aguiar said in a statement Wednesday. "The department's practices have allowed far too many false arrests of our citizens, injured our citizens, and killed our citizens."

Aguiar also emphasized parts of the report that said police were targeting Black people in particular and were responding inappropriately to reports of sexual assaults.

Earlier CNN reported the Justice Department identified “deficiencies” in the police department’s response to domestic violence and sexual assault allegations, including allegations that their own officers engaged in sexual misconduct or domestic violence. 

“The department has damaged so many lives with little to no accountability. And our local prosecutors have not done a damn thing to assure that criminals with badges are treated like the criminals that they are,” Aguiar said.

He thanked Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, the Department of Justice, and “everyone who spoke out demanding change.”

“We need officers who want to engage with the community and police constitutionally. And we need officers with the courage to hold their fellow officers accountable,” Aguiar said.

1:32 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Rebranding of VIPER unit shows how Louisville police avoided meaningful reforms, report shows

From CNN's Devan Cole

A report released by the Justice Department shows how an anti-crime unit created by Louisville Metro Police Department in 2012 that became known for its "aggressive tactics" later rebranded in the face of intense community scrutiny. But the unit continued engaging in unlawful policing activities under its new banner, according to the report, underscoring how the department for years avoided implementing meaningful reforms.

"The Violent Incident Prevention, Enforcement and Response (VIPER) Unit focused its enforcement on 'hot spots' of violent crime, including by stopping people in certain neighborhoods for minor traffic infractions and other low-level offenses," the report said.

Residents "called VIPER officers 'jump out boys' for their aggressive tactics, and protesters demonstrated in front of police headquarters to demand an end to the unit," the report added.

The department rebranded VIPER as the Ninth Mobile Division in 2015, according to the report, and pulled most of its members from VIPER.

The result, according to the Justice Department, was that the new unit committed similar abuses to the ones that happened under the VIPER banner.

"Despite VIPER's failures, LMPD leaders again failed to monitor Ninth Mobile. Neither Chief (Steve) Conrad nor Ninth Mobile's leader analyzed enforcement activities for signs of discrimination. Federal and state courts found that Ninth Mobile officers violated residents' Fourth Amendment rights, and we reviewed incidents in which Ninth Mobile and other patrol officers engaged in unlawful street enforcement activities," the report said in part.

Similar units have come under fire in recent months, including one in Memphis, Tennessee, after five of its members were charged in connection with the January death of Tyre Nichols, whose brutal beating after a police traffic stop was seen on video. The five officers pleaded not guilty last month.

4:09 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Details in report confirm many people's complaints about interactions with police, mayor says

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks during a press conference on the Justice Department's findings of the civil rights investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville Metro Government on March 8 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg speaks during a press conference on the Justice Department's findings of the civil rights investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville Metro Government on March 8 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Luke Sharrett/AFP/Getty Images)

The details of discrimination and violent tactics used by police in Louisville, Kentucky, in a new report issued by the Justice Department cuts deep for a lot of people living in the community, Mayor Craig Greenberg said.

The report “brings back a lot of painful memories especially from 2020” when Breonna Taylor was killed, but for many, the pain goes back even further, he said.

"Some people are surprised and horrified to hear stories about certain officers operating in ways that are so counter to our values as a community," Greenberg said. "I also know there are people who are not surprised to hear the findings in this report because they see this report as confirmation of complaints they've made about their own interactions with law enforcement, sometimes for years."

The mayor said the city has "wounds that have not yet healed and that’s why this report, this moment, are so important and so necessary." He emphasized that there is work to do and pledged to take action to "correct the mistakes of the past."

The report's findings present an opportunity to “reform and improve” policing in the city, Greenberg said, adding that his top responsibilities are to reduce violent crime and improve public safety.

“This is not about politics or other places. This is about Louisville. This is about our city, our neighbors, and how we serve them,” Greenberg said. “We will make changes. We will make progress."

Greenberg was sworn in as Louisville mayor in January 2023, nearly three years after Taylor was shot and killed in a botched raid by the Louisville Police Department. 

1:30 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

These are some of the recommendations the Justice Department is urging Louisville Police to make

From CNN's Devan Cole and Hannah Rabinowitz

Leaders in Lousiville, Kentucky, are vowing to make changes after a Justice Department report revealed a pattern of discrimination, unreasonable tactics and excessive force by the police department.

“The United States Department of Justice is demanding that we take action. The people of Louisville are demanding that we take action,” Mayor Craig Greenberg said Wednesday, noting that his office and DOJ reached an “agreement in principle that will help guide us as we implement next steps.”

LMPD interim Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said that improvement "will not occur overnight," and that the department is committed to working towards the goals set by the report.

The report outlines several steps that the Louisville Metro Police Department should take to reduce instances of misconduct.

Here are some of them:

  • Every police stop should be documented and reviewed by supervisors, the report says, and body-worn cameras should be consistently reviewed. 
  • Officers also should better prepare when executing search warrants, the report says, and police department guidelines should require that officers “knock and announce their presence” when executing a search warrant. 
  • The report also advises that LMPD should “ensure that anyone who wishes to submit a complaint about an officer’s conduct is able to do so,” better emphasize the “rules of engagement” when dealing with protests, and establish an external review panel for sexual assault investigations.
1:37 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Breonna Taylor's mother says DOJ findings are an indicator that her daughter's death "is not in vain"

From CNN’s Celina Tebor and Jason Carroll

Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, prays with Taylor's sister Ju'Niyah Palmer, left, attorney Ben Crump, right, and Until Freedom members after the announcement that four current and former Louisville police officers involved in the deadly raid on Taylor's home were charged with civil rights violations and other counts August 4, 2022, in Louisville, Kentucky. 
Tamika Palmer, Breonna Taylor's mother, prays with Taylor's sister Ju'Niyah Palmer, left, attorney Ben Crump, right, and Until Freedom members after the announcement that four current and former Louisville police officers involved in the deadly raid on Taylor's home were charged with civil rights violations and other counts August 4, 2022, in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Amira Karaoud/Reuters)

The mother of Breonna Taylor said the findings released Wednesday by the Department of Justice regarding the Louisville Police Department “are an indicator that Breonna’s death is not in vain."

"What was confirmed today is that I should still be able to to (sic) pick up the phone and reach my oldest daughter Breonna,” Tamika Palmer, the mother of Breonna Taylor, wrote in a statement. “It took us having to fight day in and day out for years simply because I deserved justice for my daughter’s murder to kickstart this investigation, but today’s findings are an indicator that Breonna’s death is not vain.” 

“Our fight will protect future potential victims from LMPD’s racist tactics and behavior. The time for terrorizing the Black community with no repercussions is over,” Palmer said.

Breonna Taylor's attorney Ben Crump said her family “is encouraged” by the Department of Justice report that issued a scathing critique of the Louisville Metro Police Department after a nearly two-year review launched in the wake of the botched raid that killed Taylor.

“The family of Breonna Taylor is encouraged by the findings released today by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division revealing a pattern of biased policing and a long list of constitutional violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department,” Crump wrote in a statement. 

“These findings, and LMPD’s expected cooperation with the DOJ’s recommended remedial measures, will help protect the citizens of Louisville and shape its culture of policing. It’s steps like these, and involvement of the Attorney General and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, that will move our nation forward and prevent future tragedies like the one that took the life of Breonna Taylor and the countless others who have been killed unnecessarily by law enforcement,” Crump said.

1:39 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

A "symptom of problems": Louisville police misconduct goes back further than the death of Breonna Taylor

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz, Devan Cole and Evan Perez

A memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 10, 2020. 
A memorial for Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 10, 2020.  (Bryan Woolston/Reuters)

Breonna Taylor's death was "a symptom of problems" within the Louisville Metro Police Department, according to a report released by the Justice Department Wednesday.

The DOJ's probe found that "police officers' forcible and violent entry into a person's home strikes at the heart of the constitutional protection against unreasonable government intrusion."

"But Louisville Metro's and LMPD's unlawful conduct did not start in 2020. As an LMPD leader told us shortly after we opened this investigation, 'Breonna Taylor was a symptom of problems that we have had for years,'" the report said. 

The department's leaders failed to curb the "unacceptable" conduct, the report found.

"Failures of leadership and accountability have allowed unlawful conduct to continue unchecked," the Justice Department said. "Even when city and police leaders announced solutions, they failed to follow through. In LMPD, officer misconduct too often goes unnoticed and unaddressed. At times, LMPD leaders have endorsed and defended unlawful conduct."

As a result of the misconduct, the police department has paid more than $40 million to resolve claims of police misconduct over the past six years, according to the report.

The Justice Department review was launched after the botched raid that killed Taylor.

Four current and former Louisville police officers involved in the deadly raid — including detectives who worked on the search warrant and the ex-officer accused of firing blindly into her home — have been federally charged with civil rights violations. One of the former officers, Kelly Goodlett, pleaded guilty to conspiring to falsify an affidavit for a warrant to search Taylor's home and to covering up the false document by lying to investigators.

12:16 p.m. ET, March 8, 2023

Louisville Police Department failed to equip and support its officers, Garland says

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the Louisville Police Department failed to provide its officers with proper training and resources to do their jobs effectively.

"Our investigation uncovered divisive training, substandard facilities and equipment, inadequate support for officer mental health and wellness," he said.

"Police officers already have difficult jobs. These inadequacies have made those jobs even harder and less safe," Garland said.

Garland also added that police department has already made some changes in the wake of Breonna Taylor's death.

"The city of Louisville has signed an agreement in principle with the Department of Justice. This agreement commits the city and LMPD to work with the Justice Department, the community, police officers and other stakeholders to address the problems that we have identified. This agreement commits us to negotiate a legally binding consent decree with an independent monitor," he said.

"Louisville Metro and LMPD have already instituted a number of changes through the settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor as well as through other measures," he continued.

Garland said the city enacted a law that prohibits LMPD from seeking no-knock warrants and has a pilot program to send behavioral health professionals to some 911 calls. The department has also announced plans to revamp training and support for officers, he said.

"These efforts are commendable and we credit Louisville metro and LMPD for acknowledging that change is necessary. But more must be done," Garland said.