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Former US attorneys urge LMPD to offer transparency in DOJ investigation

Published: Apr. 27, 2021 at 6:11 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Former federal prosecutors have an important bit of advice for Louisville Metro Police Department heads on how to handle the Department of Justice investigation: embrace complete transparency.

The city and LMPD are already on record promising cooperation, and experts say investigators will be digging deep.

Unlike the federal investigation into the killing of Breonna Taylor focusing on specific officers, this time the DOJ will be looking for patterns of civil rights abuses, starting with how the LMPD handled protests.

“If those protests are handled in a way that violates the rights of the press, or involve excessive force that was unnecessary to deal with genuine interest in public safety or order,” UofL law professor Sam Marcosson said. “Those are the kind of violations that also could be part of finding the police have a pattern of abusing civil rights because the protests themselves involved the civil rights of those who are involved in them.”

Such an investigation would open up scrutiny of police tactics, arrests of protesters, and incidents, including a WAVE 3 News crew being shot with pepper balls.

The ideal outcome would be a mutually agreed-upon list of reforms, possibly more training with an emphasis on de-escalation and new policies in the use of force.

Without an agreement, the DOJ could sue and mandate changes.

“If they want to avoid the imposition of a mandate they can clearly accept any recommendations that are made and satisfy those recommendations,” University of Kentucky law professor Blanche Bon Cook, a former US Assistant US Attorney, said. “If they want to avoid the imposition of a mandate they can clearly accept any recommendations that are made and satisfy those recommendations.”

It could result in a loss of local control of the department and how it performs its duties.

“Then there’s going to be more federal oversight of LMPD PIO and probably the people that run LMPD and the city would like,” Louisville attorney Brian Butler, a former assistant US attorney, said.

Former federal prosecutors explained no level of authority at LMPD and in metro government will be spared in a top to bottom examination. Also, any new or expanded training could cost the city more money.

“The city’s budget is not great so they’re going to have to find the money to do that,” Butler said. “Obviously, it’s in everyone’s best interest to find that money but that’s ultimately always the issue. You can always train more, you can always do more, you got to have the funds to do those things.”

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