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Justice Department Finds Civil Rights Violations by the LMPD and Louisville Metro

Updated: Apr 28, 2023


Full Announcement Press Conference


Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department announced today that the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) and the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (Louisville Metro) engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law. The DOJ finds civil rights violations by the LMPD dating back nearly 30 years. They also announced that it has entered into an agreement in principle with Louisville Metro and LMPD, which have committed to resolving the department’s findings through a court-enforceable consent decree with an independent monitor, rather than contested litigation.


Specifically, the Justice Department finds that LMPD:

  • Uses excessive force, including unjustified neck restraints and the unreasonable use of police dogs and tasers;

  • Conducts searches based on invalid warrants;

  • Unlawfully executes search warrants without knocking and announcing;

  • Unlawfully stops, searches, detains, and arrests people during street enforcement activities, including traffic and pedestrian stops;

  • Unlawfully discriminates against Black people in its enforcement activities;

  • Violates the rights of people engaged in protected free speech critical of policing; and

  • Along with Louisville Metro, discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to them in crisis.

The Department also identified deficiencies in LMPD’s response to and investigation of domestic violence and sexual assault, including its responses to allegations that LMPD officers engaged in sexual misconduct or domestic violence. Deficiencies in policies, training, supervision, and accountability contribute to LMPD and Louisville Metro’s unlawful conduct.


“The Justice Department has concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that Louisville Metro and LMPD engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the constitutional rights of the residents of Louisville — including by using excessive force, unlawfully discriminating against Black people, conducting searches based on invalid warrants, and violating the rights of those engaged in protected speech critical of policing,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland. “This unacceptable and unconstitutional conduct erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing. 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. The Justice Department will work closely with Louisville Metro and LMPD to negotiate toward a consent decree and durable reforms that protect both the safety and civil rights of Louisville’s residents.”


“The findings are deeply troubling and sobering, and they compromise LMPD’s ability to serve and protect the people of Louisville,” said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta. “We are committed to working with Louisville on a path forward to constitutional policing and stronger police-community trust. Although police reform won’t happen overnight, focused effort and sustained commitment will bring us closer to transformed relationships, safe communities, and this nation’s promise of justice and equality under the law.”


“People in Louisville deserve policing that is constitutional, fair and non-discriminatory,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. “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. 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.”


LMPD and Louisville Metro cooperated fully with the department’s investigation. The Justice Department provided a comprehensive, written report of its investigative findings to Louisville Metro and LMPD. The report acknowledges the changes already made by Louisville Metro and LMPD, and it identifies additional remedial measures that the department believes are necessary to fully address its findings.


The Department of Justice opened this investigation on April 26, 2021. The investigation was conducted by career attorneys and staff in the Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky. The investigation included numerous onsite tours; interviews of LMPD officers, supervisors, and command staff; ride-alongs; review of thousands of documents; and review of thousands of hours of body-worn camera footage. Department attorneys and staff also met with community members, advocates, service providers, and other stakeholders in the Louisville Metro area.


The department conducted this investigation pursuant to the 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (Section 12601), which prohibits law enforcement officers from engaging in a pattern or practice of conduct that deprives people of rights protected by the Constitution or federal law, the Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


The findings announced today are the result of the department’s civil pattern or practice investigation and are separate from the department’s criminal cases against former LMPD officers for federal crimes related to the tragic death of Breonna Taylor. These findings are also separate from the department’s ongoing investigation into the Commonwealth of Kentucky under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Additional information can be found at: www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-launches-civil-rights-investigation-kentucky-s-mental-health-service-0.


The department will be conducting outreach to members of the Louisville community for their views on remedies to address the department’s findings. Individuals may also submit recommendations by email at Community.Louisville@usdoj.gov or by phone at 1-844-920-1460.


This is one of eight investigations into law enforcement agencies opened by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division under Section 12601 during this Administration. The department has ongoing investigations into the Minneapolis Police Department; the Phoenix Police Department; the Mount Vernon (NY) Police Department; the Louisiana State Police; the New York City Police Department’s Special Victims Division; the Worcester (MA) Police Department; and the Oklahoma City Police Department.


Additional information about the Civil Rights Division is available on its website at www.justice.gov/crt. Additional information about the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Kentucky is available at www.justice.gov/usao-wdky.


Information specific to the Civil Rights Division’s police reform work can be found here: www.justice.gov/crt/file/922421/download.


DIRECTLY RELEASED FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE


 

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