The Justice Department will investigate the policies and operations of the Louisville, Kentucky, police department in the wake of the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday.
The probe is the second launched by the Biden Justice Department in the past five days. Mr. Garland last week announced a separate “pattern or practice” investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department after former officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murdering George Floyd.
Speaking at the Justice Department, Mr. Garland said pattern or practice investigations help protect individual civil rights and also assist police departments to “develop measures to increase transparency and accountability.”
Mr. Garland said the probe will determine whether the Louisville Metro Police Department engages in “unconstitutional searches and seizures” as well as whether it “unlawfully executes search warrants on private homes.”
It also will assess whether the Louisville police engages in “discriminatory conduct on the basis of race,” Mr. Garland continued.
At a press conference Monday following Mr. Garland’s announcement, Police Chief Erika Shields said she welcomes the investigation as a way to change policing in Louisville.
“The reality is what the DOJ is doing is bringing more resources, drilling down in greater detail and providing the guidance on what it is the feds want to see nationally,” she said. “There needs to be clarity and uniformity on that.”
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer also offered support for the probe, saying officers in Louisville want to “get it right.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, acknowledged the “significant challenges” facing the Louisville Metro Police Department, saying the investigation is “certainly not inappropriate.”
Civil rights leaders and others have demanded a probe into the police department following the police shooting of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was killed during a botched raid on her apartment. The plainclothes officers entered her home while serving a no-knock warrant for Taylor’s ex-boyfriend and fired 32 shots.
Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, returned fire, saying he believed them to be intruders.
One of the three officers involved in her death has faced criminal charges.
Democratic lawmakers last year, including then-Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, had asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the Louisville Police. But the Trump-era Justice Department responded that such an investigation would be “unlikely.”
Criticism of the Louisville police department has extended beyond the Taylor shooting. In recent years, the department has come under scrutiny for a series of controversial traffic stops of Black people.
Hillard Heintze, a private risk assessment company, this year released results of a comprehensive review of policing in Louisville that found the department is “in crisis.”
Still, Mr. Garland acknowledged Monday that Louisville has taken steps to change policing, adding that the city and federal government “share a common aim.”
The use of “pattern or practice” investigations into local police departments accused of wrongdoing was a favorite tool of the Obama-era Justice Department.
Mr. Garland has repeatedly pledged that he would reinstate such probes to ensure police oversight.
At a meeting Friday with leaders of the nation’s largest police groups, Mr. Garland said the Minneapolis pattern or practice probe would not be the last started by the Justice Department.
The Trump administration had abandoned such investigations, saying the probes made it hard for police to do their job and increased crime in cities where departments were under federal investigation.