Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that the Department of Justice will launch a sweeping investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department and city government to determine if there is unconstitutional or unlawful policing in the city where officers shot and killed Breonna Taylor last March. It is the second such “pattern or practice” probe announced in the past week: The day after Derek Chauvin was convicted in the murder of George Floyd, Garland announced an inquiry into the Minneapolis Police Department where Chauvin was an officer.
Garland said the probe will focus on whether or not the LMPD “engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force, including with respect to people involved in peaceful expressive activities.” He added that the inquiry will also determine if the police department “engages in unconstitutional stops, searches, and seizures, as well as whether the department unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes” and if officers discriminate in their policing “on the basis of race.” If prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division determine there is a pattern or practice of misconduct, they will issue a public report of their findings and insist on reforming the police department, Garland said.
Last year, President Biden campaigned on the revival of such “pattern or practice” investigations, after they were shelved by Donald Trump’s first attorney general, Jeff Sessions. The investigations can lead to consent decrees with the DOJ, placing local law-enforcement under federal oversight until they comply with specific goals. The investigations are considered powerful tools for police reform.
Over the weekend, the trial date for Brett Hankison, the only officer charged in the killing of Taylor, was moved from August of this year until February 2022. Hankison was indicted last year on three counts of wanton endangerment in the homicide for allegedly firing blindly through a door and a window. The felony counts are for endangering three people, including a pregnant woman and a child, in a neighboring apartment. None of the three officers involved in the no-knock raid were charged for killing Taylor, though one got a book deal.