The U.S. Department of Justice has opened its second civilian investigation into a large-city police force, announcing that Louisville, Ky., Will come under scrutiny after Breonna Taylor’s death in a raid on his apartment last year.
The inquest announced Monday came less than a week after the department opened a police investigation in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where a jury convicted former officer Derek Chauvin of the murder of George Floyd, a local resident.
Both inquiries signaled an intention to increase federal oversight of local police under the Biden administration. The deaths of Taylor and Floyd, both black Americans, at the hands of police in early 2020 helped spark a nationwide race toll and weeks of mass protests. Black and brunette people in the United States are more likely to be killed by law enforcement officers.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said the DoJ would assess whether the Louisville Metro Police Department had a history of excessive force, illegal searches, discrimination based on race or refusal to services mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“As with any Justice Department investigation, we will follow the facts and the law, wherever they lead,” Garland said, mentioning Taylor by name. “If there are reasonable grounds to believe that there was a pattern or practice of constitutional or statutory violations, we will issue a public report of our findings.”
The DoJ conducted such an investigation during former President Donald Trump’s four-year tenure in the Narcotics Unit of the Springfield, Massachusetts Police Department. They were 25 during the eight-year tenure of former President Barack Obama.
Taylor, a 26-year-old medical worker, was sleeping in her apartment in March of last year when three Louisville subway officers stormed in. The police exchanged gunshots with her boyfriend as they entered.
The police warrant did not require them to register before entering and was based on information that was later discovered to be false.
A Louisville Police Detective will stand trial in 2022 for endangering Taylor’s neighbors, but there has been no indictment for his death.
The Department of Justice investigation, which will also examine the Louisville-Jefferson County Metropolitan Government, is known as the “model or practice” investigation. If it sets up a model of police misconduct in Louisville after months of police interviews and community hearings, the DoJ will seek to work with the LMPD to implement reforms.
The department can also sue police to demand changes, leading to the type of legal settlement that has been shown to reduce police violence in other cities, including Seattle and Detroit.
Louisville Police Chief Erika Shields told reporters she was not “entirely surprised” by the announcement and would support the investigation. “If we want to be one of the flagships of change, bring it on,” she said.