A report released by the Justice Department shows how an anti-crime unit created by Louisville Metro Police Department in 2012 that became known for its “aggressive tactics” later rebranded in the face of intense community scrutiny. But the unit continued engaging in unlawful policing activities under its new banner, according to the report, underscoring how the department for years avoided implementing meaningful reforms.
“The Violent Incident Prevention, Enforcement and Response (VIPER) Unit focused its enforcement on ‘hot spots’ of violent crime, including by stopping people in certain neighborhoods for minor traffic infractions and other low-level offenses,” the report said.
Residents “called VIPER officers ‘jump out boys’ for their aggressive tactics, and protesters demonstrated in front of police headquarters to demand an end to the unit,” the report added.
The department rebranded VIPER as the Ninth Mobile Division in 2015, according to the report, and pulled most of its members from VIPER.
The result, according to the Justice Department, was that the new unit committed similar abuses to the ones that happened under the VIPER banner.
“Despite VIPER’s failures, LMPD leaders again failed to monitor Ninth Mobile. Neither Chief (Steve) Conrad nor Ninth Mobile’s leader analyzed enforcement activities for signs of discrimination. Federal and state courts found that Ninth Mobile officers violated residents’ Fourth Amendment rights, and we reviewed incidents in which Ninth Mobile and other patrol officers engaged in unlawful street enforcement activities,” the report said in part.
Similar units have come under fire in recent months, including one in Memphis, Tennessee, after five of its members were charged in connection with the January death of Tyre Nichols, whose brutal beating after a police traffic stop was seen on video. The five officers pleaded not guilty last month.