Winter in Unalaska by Sam Zmolek
Your voice in the Aleutians.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

DOJ To Probe Louisville Police In Response To Breonna Taylor's Death


The Justice Department says it will investigate the Louisville police. It's a search for a pattern or practice of discrimination, the kind of probe of local police that used to be common, then dropped off during the Trump administration. Now, within less than a week, federal authorities have announced examinations of both Minneapolis and Louisville. In each case, a high-profile killing triggered federal interest. Jess Clark of our member station WFPL reports on the Louisville probe.

JESS CLARK, BYLINE: Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was quick to embrace the Justice Department's announcement Monday.


GREG FISCHER: I strongly welcome the announcement made by Attorney General Merrick Garland earlier today of a patterns-and-practice investigation into LMPD.

CLARK: That's Fischer at an afternoon press conference welcoming the investigation just hours after he learned of it himself. The mayor and Louisville police have faced months of criticism over the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman police shot and killed in a no-knock raid. Police have also been criticized for violent responses to protests. Just last week, an officer was caught on camera punching a protester in the face during an arrest. That protester, Denorver Garrett, was emotional and fighting back tears as he praised the DOJ's decision Monday.


DENORVER GARRETT: This is a blessing, that somebody is finally listening, that, like, somebody is finally hearing our voices.

CLARK: Garrett hopes the investigation will bring change.


GARRETT: The police act like they don't care, like they're in war, like this is war. And all we're doing is standing up for what's right.

CLARK: Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields was brought in recently. Her predecessor was fired after a string of department scandals. Shields says she's not surprised the DOJ decided to launch the inquiry.


ERIKA SHIELDS: I think that it's necessary because police reform, quite honestly, is needed in near every agency across the country.

CLARK: Shields comes from the Atlanta Police Department, where she resigned as police chief after officers there killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks last June. Activist and local attorney David Mour says an outside agency like the federal government is exactly what's needed.


DAVID MOUR: I mean, this is a rogue police department. We've got the rats investigating the rats, the police investigating the police.

CLARK: The local police union says it's confident the DOJ will find no systemic violations of constitutional rights. Louisville protest leader and mayoral candidate Shameka Parrish-Wright believes otherwise. But she notes the attorney general did not cite Breonna Taylor's killing as a focus of the new federal inquiry.

SHAMEKA PARRISH-WRIGHT: I mean, I wish it had spoke more to her case. But the fact that they're investigating LMPD - it does give people some hope.

CLARK: Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says he sees the investigation as an opportunity to bring federal resources to ongoing local efforts at reform. But as Parrish-Wright points out, Fischer may be welcoming the DOJ investigation now, but he didn't ask for it. It was protesters who were calling for more to be done. For NPR News, I'm Jess Clark in Louisville. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Jess Clark is WWNO's Education Desk reporter. Jess comes to the station after two years as Fletcher Fellow for Education Policy Reporting for North Carolina Public Radio - WUNC (Chapel Hill). Her reporting has aired on national programs, including NPR's All Things Considered, Here & Now from WBUR, and NPR's Weekend Edition.