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US police slammed as 'racist, violent' by probe into 2020 killing of black woman

Picture of Breonna Taylor during a police protest march Los Angeles, US.

A comprehensive investigation by the US Justice Department has found that the Louisville police forces have engaged in a pattern of discrimination against the Black community and abusive law enforcement practices.

The probe, prompted by the 2020 police killing of Breonna Taylor, said, “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 US Constitution and federal law.” 

The 90-page investigative report also detailed a variety of serious misconduct, including the use of excessive force, “no-knock” warrants, illegal searches, and harassment of people during street sweeps, as well as using dangerous neck restraints, choking, Tasers, and even dogs to subdue citizens, allowing the dogs to continue biting people after they surrendered.

The probe also found the police department in Kentucky used aggressive tactics selectively against Black people, as well as other vulnerable people, such as those with behavioral health challenges.

Some Louisville police officers even filmed themselves insulting people with disabilities and describing Black people as cmonkeys,” the report said. It also found that officers quickly resorted to violence.

Police cited people for minor traffic offenses like wide turns and broken taillights, while serious crimes like sexual assault and homicide went unsolved, the probe found, adding minor offenses were used as a pretext to investigate unrelated criminal activity.

The department’s findings came nearly two years after the death of Breonna Taylor, a young Black woman who was shot six times and killed by officers in a botched raid on her home in 2020.

Attorney General Merrick Garland denounced as “unacceptable” and “heartbreaking” some of the conduct by police officers as he spoke at a news conference in Louisville, alongside the city’s mayor and acting police chief.

The conduct of the police department “has undermined its public safety mission and strained its relationship with the community it is meant to protect and serve,” he said.

Garland further noted that the department had reached a “consent decree” with the Louisville police, which will require the use of an independent monitor to oversee policing reforms.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenburg also said the Justice Department’s report brought back “painful memories,” vowing to implement reforms.

“Our city has wounds that have not yet healed and that’s why this report... is so important and so necessary,” he said.

Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency medical technician and an aspiring nurse, was killed in her Louisville home during a botched drug raid on March 13, 2020. Officers broke down her door and opened fire, shooting 32 rounds after Taylor’s friend shot at them once, saying later he had thought they were intruders.

The incident, along with the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota, sparked mass protests against racial injustice and police brutality across the United States in the summer of 2020.

In August last year, the US Justice Department charged four white police officers over the death of Taylor. Three of the officers were charged with falsifying a search warrant in a suspected drug trafficking case while another was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment for shooting into a neighbor’s apartment.

The latest report recommended 36 measures for Louisville police, including revamping policies on search warrants, new use-of-force training for officers, requiring body-worn cameras to be activated, documenting all police stops, and improving civilian oversight.

Garland also announced new policies for federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, which is now prohibited from conducting “no-knock” entries like the one used against Taylor by local police.

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