LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- More than one year ago, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a sweeping federal investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department's patterns and practices.
And those were thrust back into the public eye again Thursday when U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced federal charges against four former and current Louisville police officers in connection with the police killing of Breonna Taylor’s during a 2020 raid at her home.
Ex-detectives Joshua Jaynes and Brett Hankison and current officers Kyle Meany and Kelly Goodlett face charges that include civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracies, unconstitutional use of force and obstruction, Garland said in a news conference Thursday. The action caps a federal investigation that looked at how police obtained the search warrant for Taylor's apartment, something a prior state investigation by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's office did not pursue. Cameron has said that aspect was part of the Justice Department's work.
The "pattern or practice" review — announced by Garland in April 2021 — was meant to target officers' use of force, including against people participating in First Amendment-protected activities. It also aimed to determine if the department makes unconstitutional stops, searches and seizures on patrols and when executing search warrants at private homes. The review would also determine whether the department discriminates and how it treats people with behavioral disabilities.
Since 2019, at least nine officers have been convicted in federal court. Five more cases are pending, including the four officers charged Thursday.
"Our pattern and practice investigation into the police department is ongoing," Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said Thursday. "Our team has been on the ground conducting interview with stakeholders, members in the police department engaging in ride-alongs and reviewing documents and data."
Shamika Parrish-Wright participated in DOJ interviews as the leader of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression. She focused on LMPD officers' clashes with protestors in the summer of 2020.
"People were getting these pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey charges," Parrish-Wright said. "They were just throwing every charge on them to see what stuck."
Parish-Wright participated in many demonstrations in the aftermath of Taylor's death. She was arrested alongside state Rep. Attica Scott during one of them and accused of trying to set fire to the main branch of the Louisville Free Public Library.
"(The FBI) wanted what it was like day-to-day for people, and, as you know, I was arrested on bogus charges. And so I got to share about that experience and how they basically made everything up even though I was acquitted. It was important for me to share my story."
While the probe is ongoing, it has yielded results and uncovered previously unknown police misconduct. For example, former Officer Corey Evans was sentenced to two years in prison for assaulting a protestor, and former LMPD Officers Bryan Wilson and Curt Flynn pleaded guilty earlier this year to driving by and throwing slushies at people on the street in 2018.
"Nobody wants to be under investigation by the department of justice," LMPD Assistant Chief Lt. Col. Paul Humphrey said in October 2021. "They're obviously here for a reason."
For its part, LMPD wants to get ahead of the findings. The department received $17 million from Louisville Metro Council for police reform, which includes money to launch an accountability and improvement bureau to focus on training, supervision and management structure.
"What it's about is it's about leadership, people and making sure that we're always on track with doing the right things," Humphrey said.
These federal probes typically result in a consent decree, a contract for targeted specific improvements. It could be a big step for an embattled police department to regain public trust.
"LMPD's corruption runs so deep it's beyond the rogue officers," Parrish-Wright. "They actually do need more oversight from the federal level."
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- TRANSCRIPT | US Attorney General announces federal charges in death of Breonna Taylor
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- TIMELINE | Step-by-step look at Breonna Taylor case, from her death to 4 officers facing federal charges
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