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US Attorney General Merrick Garland announces investigation into LMPD

Mayor Fischer, Chief Shields
LMPD officers at the scene of a shooting in St. Dennis on April 14, 2021.
LMPD officers at the scene of a shooting in St. Dennis on April 14, 2021.(WAVE 3 News)
Updated: Apr. 26, 2021 at 5:32 PM EDT
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U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that his office will investigate the...
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday that his office will investigate the Louisville Metro Police Department.(WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Three days after he announced an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced a similar probe of the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Garland announced Monday afternoon that his office plans to investigate Louisville’s Metro Government, as well as LMPD.

“The investigation will assess whether LMPD engages in a pattern or practice of using unreasonable force ... (or) whether LMPD engages in discriminatory conduct on basis of race,” Garland said.

Already under local scrutiny for the Explorer Program sex abuse scandal, the department was thrust into the national spotlight following the botched raid at Breonna Taylor’s apartment last year.

Three LMPD officers fired their guns during the midnight raid that left the 26-year-old Taylor bleeding to death on the floor of her hallway.

One officer was terminated and has been charged with wanton endangerment for firing into a neighboring apartment, but none of the officers was charged directly for Taylor’s death.

And just this month, LMPD found itself in defense mode once again after cellphone video surfaced that showed six police officers taking a suspect into custody. As one officer tried to handcuff the man, a struggle eventually ensued, prompting the officers to take the man to the ground. One officer was seen on the video punching the man in the side of the face several times.

Garland said the investigation also will “include a comprehensive review” of the department’s policies and training.

“We will follow the facts and the law wherever they lead,” he said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer called a news conference shortly after Garland’s announcement. He and LMPD Chief Erika Shields, as well as Metro Council President David James and Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, all sounded upbeat about what the investigation could yield.

“As someone who truly believes in police reform and doing things differently, I think it’s a good thing,” Shields said. “Police reform, quite honestly, is needed in near every agency across the country. If (we) are going to be one of the flagship departments for change, then bring it on. We’re going to deliver.”

Garland said that if violations are found, “the Justice Department will aim to work with the city and the police department to arrive at a set of mutually agreeable steps that they can take” to prevent further violations.

“The investigators will seek input from every corner of Louisville,” he said. “They will work with the community, with public officials and with law enforcement officers.”

James said he thinks both officers and citizens want LMPD to be the best police department in America.

“But I think there has to be some cultural change to take place in order for that to happen,” he said. “Having the federal government come and look at what we have going well and what we don’t have going so well is very important.”

The city already has made some police reforms, including the discontinuation of no-knock warrants, as well as a new requirement that all officers be outfitted with body cameras, among others. The city also reached a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family last year.

“We commend those measures,” Garland said.

Added Fischer: “I appreciate that the attorney general mentioned the reform steps that we have already taken here in Louisville. We know we have much more work to do.”

Fischer also said similar federal reviews in Chicago and Baltimore took about 13 months to complete, but he intimated that it might not take as long since Louisville is a smaller city that boasts a smaller police department.

Garland’s team is expected to review five years’ worth of policing in Louisville.

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