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DOJ attorneys ask Louisville community for input on LMPD consent decree

A screenshot of the first community meeting, via Zoom, following the U.S. Department of Justice report into Louisville Metro police misconduct.
Ryan Van Velzer
A screenshot of the first community meeting following the U.S. Department of Justice report into Louisville Metro police misconduct.

In the first virtual meeting with community members, U.S. Department of Justice attorneys provided an overview of their investigative findings into the Louisville Metro Police Department, but did not take community comments or questions.

Nearly a dozen U.S. attorneys took turns explaining the 90-page report released Wednesday that found widespread abuses, racism, Constitutional violations and mismanagement within the Louisville Metro Police Department.

The report is the culmination of a two-year investigation into LMPD patterns and practices, but Civil Rights Division Deputy Chief Paul Killebrew said it was only the beginning of crafting a consent decree that improves public safety.

“It is really now that we can start to work on solutions, and the solutions are really where the rubber hits the road in this reform process,” Killebrew said Wednesday night. “We want to negotiate an effective consent decree that puts us on the pathway to a safer Louisville.”

The Justice Department announced the community meeting in a press release Wednesday morning and encouraged members of the public to join and learn more about the report. Residents, however, were not allowed to participate, or see who else was in the meeting outside of department attorneys.

DOJ attorneys assembled in a familiar Zoom screen setup to discuss in more depth what was in the report.

“In the road ahead we look forward to engaging with you. Continued input and engagement with the public will be critical to ensuring the success of our efforts,” Civil Rights Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said.

The team of attorneys went through the report section by section offering highlights of their findings. They described how Louisville police used excessive force against peaceful protesters, people with disabilities and teenagers; how they used police dogs to attack people who did not pose a threat; and how they racially discriminated against Black residents, among many other serious findings.

Attorneys explained that police officers engaged in retaliatory practices, unlawfully searched homes without warrants, did not turn on body cams, reflexively frisked drivers and passengers, and were skeptical towards victims of sexual assault.

When it came to their own officers, LMPD regularly failed to conduct thorough investigations of misconduct, departed from investigative findings without documentation, and allowed officers to make repeated violations without discipline.

Following an attorney-led discussion of the findings, Killebrew said the investigation established the record so that officials can offer solutions to make the department better and the public safer. He said the consent decree will focus on improving institutional policies, officer training, supervision and accountability.

At the end of the meeting attorneys shared an email address and phone number, community.louisville@usdoj.gov and 844-920-1460, for community input. They said there would be further opportunity for engagement but not specify when.

Ryan Van Velzer is the Kentucky Public Radio Managing Editor. Email Ryan at rvanvelzer@lpm.org.

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