This story was produced through a collaboration between the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WDRB Media.
The city paid $1.8 million to settle a lawsuit filed by three women who claimed they were coerced into serving as confidential informants and then sexually abused by a Louisville police detective.
“Sexual assault victims are often reluctant to come forward, which is especially true when the perpetrator is a police officer,” said attorney Vince Johnson, who represented two of the women who sued former detective Brian Bailey and the department.
“Being able to reach a resolution after two years of litigation allows the healing to begin. And it is our hope LMPD continues to implement changes so that nothing like this happens again.”
The settlement was reached in September and recently finalized. Each woman will receive an equal portion of the settlement.
An attorney for Bailey could not immediately be reached for comment.
Louisville Metro Council president David James said the settlement is another example of the problematic culture and lax accountability within the city’s police department.
“It’s good that we were able to settle it and the victims were made whole,” he said. “But it’s very sad (and) disappointing that one of our police officers would do such a thing.”
James said there’s been a significant amount of money paid out in civil litigation — specifically cases involving LMPD — in recent years and it ultimately reduces the city’s ability to provide public services.
The city has spent about $40 million since 2017, which dwarfs what neighboring states and other larger cities have paid for police mistakes in recent years, a WDRB News investigation found.
James said he believes LMPD Chief Erika Shields is working to bring more training and accountability to prevent officers from doing things that spark lawsuits.
“I’m hoping things will change,” he said.
Mayor Greg Fischer’s office and police officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The first woman sued Bailey and the department in October 2020, alleging Bailey coerced her into becoming an informant and forced her to engage in oral sex with him. A second woman asked to join the suit a month later with the same allegations. And a third woman joined last year.
The women were only identified as “Jane Doe” in court records.
Two internal investigations concluded that Bailey pressured multiple confidential informants into performing sexual acts on him and lied about it to investigators — and that his actions broke the law.
Police and prosecutors have an alleged victim’s shirt with Bailey’s semen on it, sexually explicit text messages he sent, proof he coerced informants into having oral sex with him in his police car and sexual acts in his office. Police also confirmed Bailey lied in sworn testimony.
But nearly three years after the investigations began, in February 2020, Bailey has not been criminally charged.
Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said his office is still reviewing the Bailey case, now more than 15 months since it received the bulk of the evidence from LMPD’s criminal investigation.
The prosecutor assigned to the case and attorneys for the alleged victims are discussing access to phone records and meeting with the women, Wine said.
Police are “unable” to charge Bailey with official misconduct and prostitution, both misdemeanors, because the one-year statute of limitations for misdemeanor charges ran out during the LMPD’s two-year investigation, Sgt. Andrew Meyer of the Professional Standards Unit wrote in an investigative summary last year.
Sgt. Omar Lee, who investigated Bailey to determine if he committed a crime, testified in a civil deposition last September that a felony charge of sodomy is possible as felony cases have no statute of limitations.
Bailey was also investigated and cleared for the same offense in 2016, when a woman serving as his confidential informant accused him of sexual assault. She did not file a lawsuit.
The woman accused Bailey of touching her breast and sending her pictures of his penis from his work cellphone, but police never interviewed Bailey or looked at his phone.
Indeed, investigators waited eight months before even asking Bailey to talk about her claims. When he refused, they closed the case, saying the allegations were “unfounded.”
In addition, LMPD didn’t open an internal investigation with its Professional Standards Unit, which is typical LMPD practice to do after a criminal probe is complete to look for violations of police procedure.
It would take another four years — and three more women accusing Bailey of sexual assault — before investigators talked with him. It took another year before police subpoenaed Bailey’s phones.
By then, three women had filed lawsuits against Bailey: his partner Jared Williams, who resigned from the department in January 2021; other officers involved in the 2016 investigation and the city, among others.
As part of the settlement, the suit against the officers in the 2016 investigation were dismissed.
In an August 2021 deposition, Shields criticized the investigations into Bailey, saying that police should have obtained the texts the detective sent in 2016. She said a more thorough investigation at the time would have likely led to Bailey’s resignation or firing.
The complaints in the lawsuits are similar: Bailey forced women facing charges to become confidential informants and then compelled them to perform sexual acts on him under threat of criminal prosecution.
Police concluded that Bailey targeted low-income women who were addicted to drugs and “would be more willing to perform sexual acts than go to jail,” according to an investigative summary.
WDRB News and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting first documented Bailey’s pattern of questionable warrants and accusations of sexual misconduct with confidential informants in February 2021 as part of the news organizations’ examination of LMPD search warrants in the wake of the 2020 fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.
Before he was taken off the streets, Bailey was notorious for search warrants based on information provided by confidential informants.
Bailey obtained more residential search warrants than any other LMPD officer, according to an analysis by KyCIR and WDRB of publicly available warrants. He obtained more search warrants between January 2019 and June 2020 than the next two officers combined.
All but one of Bailey’s warrants reviewed by KyCIR and WDRB was based, at least in part, on the word of confidential informants.
Attorneys raised flags about Bailey’s use of confidential informants, accusing him in court of relying on “boilerplate” affidavits and, in some cases, making up information.
Keep Louisville interesting and support LEO Weekly by subscribing to our newsletter here. In return, you’ll receive news with an edge and the latest on where to eat, drink and hang out in Derby City.