Louisville will identify officers highlighted in scathing DOJ misconduct report
Louisville officials say they’ll provide more information about the officers whose alleged misconduct was detailed in the U.S. Department of Justice report released earlier this month.
After a lengthy investigation, the DOJ alleged the Louisville Metro Police Department engaged in a pattern or practice of violating peoples’ civil rights and discriminating against Black residents from 2016 through the end of 2021.
The 90-page report included dozens of example incidents, some of which shocked local leaders and residents. The DOJ report did not include the names of the officers and victims involved, or the dates the incidents occurred. City officials say some of those details could be made public within weeks.
In one case, an officer responding to a call of an intoxicated woman repeatedly struck her in the face with a flashlight after she bit his shoe, the report said. He later told his supervisor he “beat the s--- out of [the woman],” but couldn't recall how many times he struck her.
Metro Council members and community leaders say LMPD and Mayor Craig Greenberg’s administration must publicly identify the officers who committed the alleged misconduct and disclose whether they’re still on the force. Kevin Trager, a spokesperson for Greenberg, told LPM News this week the administration intends to do that.
“We have just received this information from the Department of Justice and are beginning our review of the referenced documents, files, and body camera footage to identify all the details of the incidents referenced in the findings report,” Trager said in an email. “When that review has been completed, we will release details of each incident and supporting documents.”
The city asked DOJ officials to provide more detail on the misconduct incidents the day after the report was released publicly, David Kaplan, Greenberg’s chief of staff, told council members Tuesday. He said the mayor’s office had received a response the day before.
In a statement Friday, LMPD spokesperson Aaron Ellis said the department plans to assemble a “comprehensive report” on each incident highlighted in the DOJ report. Ellis said officials expect that to take between 35 and 45 days.
“Considering the volume of information, this process will take time,” he said. “All stakeholders deserve a proper review of the facts and a detailed report.”
The Greenberg administration provided LPM News a copy of the additional information shared by the DOJ this week. It includes a list of case numbers for internal investigations by LMPD’s Professional Standards Unit, lawsuit names and links to Axon body camera footage.
Paul Killebrew, deputy chief of the DOJ’s Special Litigation Section, told city officials in a memo that came with the list that they agreed to provide the information because of the “highly collaborative approach” the current mayor and interim police chief have taken to the federal investigation. Louisville Metro has signed an agreement in principle to negotiate a consent decree, a roadmap for reform that will be overseen by a federal judge.
“Because of this commitment to reform, we are confident that we can engage in good-faith negotiations toward a consent decree that will resolve the violations of law and systemic deficiencies that we identified in our findings report,” Killebrew wrote.
In the memo, DOJ officials warned LMPD to carefully guard “against the potential for retaliation against witnesses and complainants.” They suggested the examples detailed in the report were not a comprehensive picture of police misconduct in Louisville.
“The incidents cited as examples in our report represent a portion of the evidence we uncovered during our investigation, and that evidence itself was often also based on a randomized sample of reports,” Killebrew said.
Calls for accountability
In the two weeks since the DOJ report was released, Metro Council members have put pressure on the Greenberg administration to release the identities of officers whose actions were detailed in the report.
At a meeting last week, District 6 Council Member Phillip Baker, a Democrat, asked city officials to disclose which officers are still employed by LMPD.
“Whenever it comes to funding and things…we can get monitors or whatever we need to,” Baker said. “But I think it’s a large concern of transparency of how many officers they know have violated peoples’ constitutional rights.”
At the meeting, Kaplan said, “some of those officers are still with the department, and some are not.” He pointed out there were more than 60 incidents highlighted in the DOJ report.
At a meeting of Metro Council’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, Democratic District 1 representative Tammy Hawkins again pushed the city leaders to “release the names.”
“There is no way that we can bridge the gap, there is no way to start accountability if you don’t start with that,” Hawkins said. “The officers that are still there should be held accountable.”
Some local elected officials believe publicly identifying the officers isn’t enough.
District 2 Metro Council Member Barbara Shanklin, a Democrat, said last week that two other parties should be held accountable: police leaders who looked the other way and judges who signed off on search warrants the DOJ alleges did not contain enough evidence of a crime.
The DOJ found that just six of 30 judges in Jefferson County Circuit and District Court approved more than half of LMPD’s search warrants.
“I think there should be an investigation of the judges, the [police] majors that knew about it, the sergeants, all of those,” Shanklin said. “There’s no way they did not know that the officers who work for them were doing these things, because they talk among each other.”
Circuit Court judges recently voted to randomize the process for selecting which judge reviews a search warrant application in an attempt to end the practice some call “judge shopping,” WDRB News reported Thursday.
In some instances of alleged racial animus or other types of misconduct, LMPD’s internal investigators reviewed incidents and cleared the officers, DOJ officials noted in the report. It’s unclear what kind of disciplinary action is possible in those cases. LMPD did not answer questions about whether the department would hold officers in the examples accountable or how they would do that.
Kentucky has a state statute known as the Kentucky Police Officers Bill of Rights. It does not address whether officers can be re-investigated or disciplined for a policy violation they were already cleared of.
DOJ officials said in the memo to city officials that they only analyzed the incidents for violations of constitutional rights. They did not assess whether individual officers were responsible for those infractions.