The 90-page-long Department of Justice report on unconstitutional policing practices and civil rights violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department highlighted several incidents that were first made public by LEO Weekly’s reporting.
Here are three stories LEO broke that ended up in the DOJ report:
Louisville Passed ‘Breonna’s Law’ — And 3 Weeks Later, Louisville Metro Police Department Conducted A Warrantless Raid
Last month, LEO reported on warrantless raid carried out by four LMPD officers in July 2020, just weeks after “Breonna’s Law” was passed and at a time when LMPD was facing heavy scrutiny over how it conducted searches following the killing of Breonna Taylor and weeks of protests.
After responding to the scene of a stabbing, an LMPD officer declared that she thought she knew who the suspect was based on a loose description from the victim and a description and name given by two bystanders, neither of whom described seeing the stabbing or a potential perpetrator in body cam footage reviewed by LEO. Four LMPD officers then went to a nearby apartment and detained a woman who was sleeping on a couch at gunpoint. She was handcuffed and detained for nearly two hours until a detective arrived and let her go. No charges were ever filed against her. The officers involved were suspended for one day each.
The DOJ mentioned the raid on page 36 of its report, using the incident to illustrate LMPD’s violations of the Fourth Amendment, which LMPD called “systemic.”
In reporting on the warrantless raid, LEO Weekly came across body camera footage showing an LMPD officer throwing garbage out of his car while driving through Smoketown to the scene of the stabbing. On page
In its report, the DOJ wrote: “some LMPD officers routinely throw garbage out of their cars while on duty. One officer said this practice was common “in the West End” because officers though, ‘Ah, if they’re going to treat their part of town like trash, then we’ll treat it like trash, too.’”
LMPD’s Use Of Generic Citations In Mass Arrest During July 24, 2020 NuLu Protest
On July 24, 2020, LMPD arrested 76 people during a protest in NuLu. In its report on Wednesday, the DOJ said that those arrests were “unnecessary and unjustified, in violation of LMPD policy and the Constitution.”
The DOJ wrote: “On July 24, 2020 officers mass-produced boilerplate citations with three common charges with generic narratives that other officers used to arrest more than 70 people. The citations and body-worn camera recordings reveal a plan, endorsed by supervisors, in which LMPD used a guilt-by-association rationale to unlawfully deprive people of liberty.”
Out of 71 arrest citations from that day that LEO Weekly obtained while reporting on a story that was published in January of 2022, all but one shared very similar, if not identical, wording. Citations with the same wording and handwriting would be signed by a variety of different arresting officers, indicating they were not filled out by the officer conducting the arrest.
While the DOJ called the arrests unconstitutional, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office brought the case of one of the people arrested that day to trial in 2021. However, the case was dismissed after opening arguments, with the prosecution saying it had failed to turn over evidence to the defense.
A Homeless Man Dies In Louisville’s Jail After Being Arrested For Refusing To Leave Restaurant
The DOJ report provided additional details about Keith Smith, a 66-year-old Black homeless man who died in the custody of Louisville’s jail in January of last year, saying his experiences “exemplified” LMPD’s problematic response to behavioral health issues.
In February of last year, LEO reported that Smith had been arrested after he refused to leave a downtown pizza restaurant. With a lengthy record of citations for misdemeanors — as well as a number of missed court dates — he was held on a $1,500 bond and remained in custody despite Pretrial Services recommending he be released.
“This is another one of those cases that I think just probably needs — he probably needs a little bit more assistance than what the criminal justice system can provide for him,” said Judge Amber Wolf on Jan. 7, 2022 after determining that Smith’s bond would stand, despite his stated inability to pay it. “I just think he could probably benefit from maybe some mental health…or maybe, I don’t know, some other treatment, other resources.”
On Jan. 9, Smith was dead. LEO was able to find records indicating he was arrested 17 times in the two years leading up to his death; the DOJ on Wednesday said he had 25 run-ins with LMPD over a span of less than two years.
“In some of these interactions, LMPD officers escalated the situation, at times mocking and cursing at him. Multiple times, officers used unreasonable force,” the DOJ wrote.
The DOJ recounted an incident in October 2021 where officers were dispatched to a report of a “disorderly person panhandling” where they found Smith with his shirt off walking in the street. Smith was familiar to the officers and was acting the way he “always” did, they said. Despite that, the DOJ said the officers started talking about what kind of charges they could put on him. They ended up bringing him to a hospital but charging him with possession of drug paraphernalia.
“These encounters — including the October 2021 and January 2022 incidents — could have been handled by a behavioral health-focused response concurrently with law enforcement, and some did not need police involvement at all,” the DOJ wrote.
Click here to read the DOJ report in its entirety.