The report said that the Louisville police department has for years “practiced an aggressive style of policing that it deploys selectively, especially against Black people, but also against vulnerable people throughout the city. … Failures of leadership and accountability have allowed unlawful conduct to continue unchecked. Even when city and police leaders announced solutions, they failed to follow through.”
The exhaustive and damning report also said that the police and the Louisville city government discriminated against people who have behavior health disabilities when responding to crisis situations.
At a news conference in Louisville, Attorney General Merrick Garland called the misconduct “heart-breaking” and said it “erodes the community trust that is needed for effective community policing.”
Read the Justice Department’s findings on the Louisville Metro Police and the Louisville Metro government
The report took nearly two years and was released just days before the third anniversary of Taylor’s death on March 13. It starts the clock on negotiations between the federal authorities and Louisville city and police leaders that is expected to result in a court-approved consent decree outlining what could amount to hundreds of specific changes within the department overseen by a federal monitor.
Although Louisville community leaders have decried reported abuses from officers for years, the Justice Department’s findings could spark new anger and distrust in the city’s police force.
Local residents protested for weeks after Taylor, 26, a Black emergency-room technician, was killed when plainclothes police officers burst into her apartment to carry out a search warrant in a drug probe. Her death, along with the police killing weeks later of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis sparked months of social justice demonstrations across the country.
Garland announced the pattern or practice probes into the police forces in both cities within his first days on the job in April 2021. The investigations involved a deep forensic review of nearly all aspects of each department, including reviews of data and body-camera footage, training methods, accountability structures, facilities and equipment, and management. The Minneapolis investigation is ongoing.
The lengthy review also weighed heavily on the Louisville police force as it attempted to repair trust with local residents while also combating a rise in violent crime that tracked national trends.
Erika Shields, hired by the city as chief in early 2021, struggled to balance her own push for greater accountability within the department with the ongoing specter of the federal probe. She resigned late last year after the voters elected a new mayor, Craig Greenberg (D), who named a Shield deputy, Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, to take over as interim police chief.
“I’ve met with several officers and divisions from across the police force and there is a renewed sense of optimism about new leadership in terms of the interim chief and mayor. That’s important,” Marcus Winkler, who took over in January as the chairman of the Louisville Metro Council, said in an interview Tuesday. “What would be interesting to see is how bad is the report from the DOJ? Is there some healing that will have to happen first in the community?”
The Justice Department has sought to demonstrate to local residents that it will seek accountability in Taylor’s killing. Last August, prosecutors filed federal civil rights charges against four current and former Louisville police officers, amid an outcry from civil rights activists and Taylor’s family that no one has been convicted of a crime in her death.
While the officers knocked before entering Taylor’s apartment, there is disagreement about whether they identified themselves as police. Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend, fired a shot with his legally owned gun, striking an officer in the leg. He later said he did not realize the people who had entered the apartment were law enforcement officers. Several officers shot back, killing Taylor.
Louisville police later fired detective Myles Cosgrove, whom the FBI determined fired the fatal shot, and detective Brett Hankison, who fired 10 shots that did not hit Taylor. State officials did not charge anyone directly in Taylor’s death.
Federal prosecutors have accused former detective Joshua Jaynes and two current police officers, detective Kelly Goodlett and Sgt. Kyle Meany, of falsifying information on a search warrant before and after Taylor was shot. Hankison, who fired through Taylor’s patio door even though he could not see who he was shooting at, is charged with two counts of deprivation of rights under color of law.
Hankison, the only officer to face state charges in connection with the case, was acquitted in March 2022 on three counts of wanton endangerment of Taylor’s neighbors.
This is a developing story. It will be updated.