DOJ: Louisville police often conduct unlawful searches and 'violate the rights' of civilians

DOJ: Louisville police often conduct unlawful searches and 'violate the rights' of civilians
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A Department of Justice (DOJ) report, released Wednesday, details troubling abuses at Kentucky's Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), including unlawful searches and no-knock raids; unjustified use of dogs, tasers, and neck holds; as well as violating the rights of police critics — all of which are defended by police leadership.

The DOJ conducted its report after looking at thousands of LMPD documents, thousands of hours of body camera footage, and conversations with hundreds of LMPD officers, city employees, and community members.

These abuses are particularly concerning considering that, in 2020, LMPD received national attention after its officers shot and killed Black medical worker Breonna Taylor in her own apartment after executing a no-knock warrant to search for her ex-boyfriend who didn’t even live there. City taxpayers have paid over $40 million over the last six years to resolve claims of LMPD’s misconduct.

"Some officers demonstrate disrespect for the people they are sworn to protect. Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars; insulted people with disabilities; and called Black people 'monkeys,' 'animal,' and 'boy,'" the report stated.

The DOJ noted that LMPD officers used unjustified neck restraints against non-resisting arrestees, even after they had already been handcuffed and placed on the ground, The Root noted. LMPD officers also allowed police dogs to bite and gnaw on detainees, including against one 14-year-old who had to received medical attention for his dog-inflicted wounds.

Officers were also found to escalate situations by issuing yelling at and rushing towards suspects. In one instance, when responding to a call about a knife-wielding man, officers rushed towards a man carrying a saw (pointed downwards), told him to "Drop it!" and then shot him 13 times two seconds after issuing the command. In another case, officers responded to domestic disturbance call by tackling and tasing a Black father in front of his children.

Such abuses continue, the report said, due to weak oversight by supervisors and insufficient internal investigations of potential department wrongdoing. Often these "investigations" don't interview civilians, don't ask officers probing questions about their actions, or actually ask leading questions to help the officers defend their behavior.

The DOJ report also found that the LMPD often doesn't mean minimum requirements for establishing "probable cause" when asking courts for search warrants. They don't mention specific crimes or suspicions of behavior attached to specific wrongdoing; instead, they just repeat general facts about criminal behavior which aren’t necessarily related to what a suspect has actually done. About 25% of these warrants are requested "under seal," shielding them from public view.

"LMPD officers unlawfully stop, frisk, detain, search, and arrest people during street enforcement activities, such as traffic and pedestrian stops," the report added. "These intrusive encounters violate the rights of people throughout the city, across race and socioeconomic class."

The LMPD's actions have disproportionately harmed Black people, the DOJ said, and even after groups and individuals have made suggestions for improvement, the LMPD has ignored these and taken actions that worsen the problem, the report added.

At a press conference releasing the report, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland call the LMPD’s conduct "unacceptable" and "heartbreaking."

On Thursday, Biden commented on the report, stating, "Cops need help. There’s some bad cops, by the way. What we did, my Justice Department just did in Louisville, Kentucky, was long overdue — put those suckers in jail."

Biden's new budget includes funding for 100,000 more police officers nationwide as well as $19.4 billion over 10 years for crime prevention strategies, The Hill reported.

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