The United States Justice Department has released its findings from a two-year investigation of the Louisville police, revealing its use of excessive force to violate the civil rights of Black people.
Among its findings is the siccing of a police dog on a 14-year-old child, resulting in the boy’s hospitalization.
On Wednesday, March 8, an 86-page report revealed two incidents of “unlawful” releases of a police dog on citizens. On one of those occasions a minor was injured after the officer spotted him lying on the ground and allowed the canine to attack and gnaw “the child’s arm,” the Insider reported.
A news briefing led by Attorney General Merrick Garland on the same day the report was released addressed the comprehensive investigation and how the law enforcement agency violated the civil rights of citizens.
To establish a reform, the local police agency and government have agreed to enter into a consent decree with the federal government after the USDOJ concluded that Louisville police officers routinely engage in discriminatory practices.
Garland, standing next to Louisville’s mayor and acting police chief, said the way law enforcement has behaved “has undermined its public safety mission and strained its relationship with the community it is meant to protect and serve.”
“This conduct is unacceptable,” he continued. “It is heartbreaking.”
According to the DOJ, “the officer was leading his dog to search for a person suspected of a home invasion. After searching for several minutes, the officer saw the teenager lying on the ground, face down in the grass. Immediately after noticing the teen, the officer deployed his dog off-leash — without giving any warning — and ordered the dog to bite the teen at least seven times.”
The boy, the report notes, did not pose a threat to the public or any police officers, nor did he resist detainment.
As he was being attacked, he is recorded yelling, “Okay! Okay! Help! Get the dog please!”
The officer rejected the child’s plea and for at least half a minute, as the dog’s teeth locked into the teen’s limbs, stood over him shouting orders.
The report revealed, “At one point, an officer shouted, ‘Stop fighting my dog!’ despite video showing the teen lying still with one arm behind his back and the other arm in the dog’s mouth.”
As a result of the altercation, the teen suffered intense trauma and sustained injuries on his arm and back, according to the children’s hospital where he had to be admitted.
The DOJ found, based on this case and several other incidents reviewed for the report, the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government and the Louisville Metro Police Department “engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law.”
The report says in both dog attacks, “the officers should not have ordered their dogs to bite the people involved.”
“Both were trying to comply with orders and were not resisting,” as noted by the DOJ. “Because these bites went on for far longer than was necessary, and given the way that officers spoke to these individuals, we have serious concerns that these uses of force were punitive, reflecting a dangerous lack of self-control by the officers and subjecting these individuals to excruciating uses of force far beyond lawful limits.”
The DOJ determined that LMPD uses of excessive force also included unjustified neck restraints and the unreasonable use of tasers. The report found that the agency has conducted searches based on invalid warrants and unlawfully executed search warrants without knocking and announcing along with unlawfully conducting stops searches, detainments and arrests.
The LMPD unlawfully discriminated against Black people in the police department’s enforcement activities and violated the rights of people who are engaged in protected speech critical of policing, the report says.
According to the Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville, the federal two-year probe, which started in April 2021, was prompted by the police-involved killing of Breonna Taylor.
The goal of the investigation was to assess “all types of force” used by the city’s law enforcement and to see if local police may have a culture of violating the First Amendment rights of its citizens. It also examined the possibility of officers violating the Fourth Amendment rights of citizens by conducting unreasonable searches and seizures of their properties. The community was not surprised when the DOJ’s research identified the corruption within Louisville’s law enforcement culture.
Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, said the report “confirmed” what she has been shouting since her daughter died in 2020.
“I should still be able to pick up the phone and reach my oldest daughter Breonna,” she said. “It took us having to fight day in and day out for years simply because I deserved justice for my daughter’s murder to kickstart this investigation, but today’s findings are an indicator that Breonna’s death is not vain.
Our fight will protect future potential victims from LMPD’s racist tactics and behavior. The time for terrorizing the Black community with no repercussions is over,” she added.
Pastor Tim Findley Jr. of Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center echoed Palmer’s comments, saying, “Locally, what people have been saying for years has now been elevated on a national stage.”
“What I found most interesting was that they talked about Black people. They didn’t say Black and brown, ” he continued. “They didn’t say other communities. Black people were targeted and terrorized. And that is a huge, huge reality that leadership, that the” fraternal order of police, he added, “must deal with, that Black people have been terrorized in Louisville for a very long time.”
The investigation included interviews with hundreds of officers and community stakeholders. It notes the department was 80 percent white, while the community was predominantly Black. The team assigned to study the 1000-member, mostly white police department also combed through massive hours of body-camera video of dozens of officers and reviewed hundreds of incidents.
The Louisville Metro Police Department released a statement regarding the report but did not address the dog attack against the teenager. Department spokesperson Angela Ingram said on March 8 they had just received the report and hadn’t had time to review it.
“Now that the DOJ has concluded their investigation and presented their findings, we will continue our efforts in improving public safety in Louisville and making LMPD the premier police department in the country.”