LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Tamika Palmer, whose daughter, Breonna Taylor, was shot and killed by Louisville Metro Police detectives in a case that directly led to a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, said federal investigators’ findings announced Wednesday amounted to “heartbreak all over again.”
Palmer has long beat the drum against LMPD practices in the wake of Taylor’s death, a seminal moment for the police department that resonated nationally and sparked weeks of city-wide protests.
“It’s heartbreaking to know that everything you’ve been saying from day one has to be said again to through this manner, that it took this to even have somebody look into this department,” Palmer said Wednesday.
Speaking in Louisville on Wednesday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and his investigators said federal and local officials have agreed in principle to enter a court-enforceable consent decree as the department makes agreed-upon changes to policing practices. The announcement was the result of a wide-ranging civil rights review that began nearly two years ago, promising to look at LMPD’s use of force, including against people participating in First Amendment-protected activities.
Attorney Sam Aguiar, who helped represent Palmer in a wrongful death lawsuit against Louisville Metro, said one critique of the DOJ report is nothing mentioned about going back and punishing officers for some of the misconduct mentioned within it.
“I don’t think enough is being done,” he said Wednesday. “Until the old guard of power” is out, major change is unlikely.
“Surprise, surprise: We have one of the worst police departments in the United States of America.”
Below is a list of responses from activists, community members, politicians and more after the DOJ announcement came down. They’re presented in alphabetical order:
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear
“Today’s findings by the Department of Justice are concerning. My hope is that everyone in Louisville will come together and see the findings of this report as an urgent opportunity to take intentional steps for positive, lasting change. I believe the DOJ findings can help achieve the goal of ensuring public safety and protecting everyone’s rights”
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron
“The vast majority of Kentucky’s law enforcement community protects and serves the Commonwealth with dignity and honor, and I am thankful to these brave men and women who put their lives on the line day in and day out to keep our communities safe.
“We hope that the U.S. Department of Justice’s work with Louisville Metro and city officials will help address lingering concerns and better allow law enforcement to keep people safe.”
“The family of Breonna Taylor is encouraged by the findings released today by Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division revealing a pattern of biased policing and a long list of constitutional violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department.
“These findings, and LMPD’s expected cooperation with the DOJ’s recommended remedial measures, will help protect the citizens of Louisville and shape its culture of policing. It’s steps like these, and involvement of the Attorney General and the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, that will move our nation forward and prevent future tragedies like the one that took the life of Breonna Taylor and the countless others who have been killed unnecessarily by law enforcement.”
Rev. Tim Findley Jr.
“Somber but vindication. I think, locally, community members who got out in the street have talked about this for a very long time. And today, on a national scale with the attorney general here, there was an acknowledgment that those things were right and that LMPD for so many years has terrorized black people.
“I had several conversations with the DOJ, and that’s one thing that I really commend about the DOJ. They did get out and talked to people. So I was happy to participate.
“What I heard today was the acknowledgment that LMPD has operated in a corrupt, terroristic sort of fashion from the way that Black people are arrested, the way that we are dealt with, the way that we are pulled over.”
“Today was, again, not a celebration but really an acknowledgment what was said, and it gives some much credence to 2020.
“I’m here. I am here as so many others to bring accountability, to hold the accountability of our new mayor of the eventual new police chief, whoever that will be. We want to make sure that what we heard today, that there is real growth, real progress after.
“It’s a very difficult thing to hear. And I’m also interested in hearing what the FOP has to say, because they spend so much time denying these things. But there’s no way around this, that this is, again, it’s vindication.”
Former Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
“First, I again extend my deepest condolences and apologies to Tamika Palmer and all the family and friends of Breonna Taylor for the tragedy that resulted in her death in March of 2020.
Today is another important inflection point to honor the pain of 2020 by further acknowledging – and continuing to act on – the fact that our community deserves a new era of public safety. This era requires the leadership of the many good officers who have dedicated their lives to keep us safe and are committed to working in partnership with the community to develop a new form of constitutionally sound policing embraced by all our city’s residents.
Since the summer of 2020, I have emphasized that public safety in Louisville and across America is at an inflection point. Without fundamental and widespread changes in police culture, resources, resident involvement and resulting police-community legitimacy, our city and nation will continue to needlessly endure tragedy after tragedy. National events since the summer of 2020 bear witness to this conclusion.
Today’s findings – paired with those from the independent audit by Hillard Heintze that I initiated in 2020 – presents Louisville with an opportunity to be a national leader and a model in building a truly just public safety system. I believe good police officers will welcome this report as an opportunity to more easily meet the oath they swore to protect and serve our community and improve their daily job performance and profession.
The Hillard Heintze report identified multiple challenges and opportunities for improvement – many of which are echoed in the DOJ report. It’s important to note that LMPD and my administration cooperated with the DOJ, mindful that a partnership approach should hasten public safety improvements. I appreciate Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta acknowledging our “proactive leadership.” We did not wait for this report to expedite accountability and improvement opportunities and we efficiently implemented or started 150 different initiatives by the end of 2022 as part of our Reimagining Public Safety mission. The work that will emanate from the DOJ report is not new to LMPD. And as shown by the improvements since 2020, our officers have the ability to see it through, with focus, dedication, resources and in partnership with the community.
Again, I extend my appreciation to the dedicated officers, community leaders and the new administration who remain actively engaged in the work of reimagining public safety – learning from our past to heal and transform LMPD into the police department Louisville residents need and deserve.”
Kentucky U.S. Congressman Morgan McGarvey
“Like many people across Louisville, my heart breaks for Breonna Taylor and her family all over again. Just a few days short of the third anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s inexcusable killing by police, the Department of Justice confirmed what we already knew: the Louisville Metro Police Department consistently violated people’s constitutional and civil rights. The investigation found that Louisville Metro police officers have engaged in the use of excessive force, unlawful execution of search warrants, and discriminatory practices against Black communities.
“I fully support the Department of Justice’s consent decree to collaboratively work with Louisville Metro, Louisville Metro Police Department, and the community to begin righting these harmful wrongs. Excessive use of force and racial profiling in the Louisville Metro Police Department will continue to plague our community until we take decisive action to create true, lasting change. We simply cannot afford to wait.
“There’s so much we can do. We stand ready as a partner with local community organizations and officials to move forward together. We can pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act to address excessive use of force and nationally ban no-knock warrants. We can pass the Mental Health Justice Act to ensure trained mental health professionals respond to crises. We can and must prevent more needless and tragic deaths from happening.
“Today’s report is a long overdue step in the right direction to hold our law enforcement accountable, but it does nothing to undo the centuries of systemic injustice Black communities have endured. We must commit to change, accountability, and justice for Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tyre Nichols, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, and the far too many others who were killed by police.”
“There’s a lot of mixed feelings, but I think that this means something to them and the order of how things and people are reprimanded, how the police are dealt with and held accountable. This is a step in the right direction for that, and if you have your boss’ boss, the biggest boss, the top of policing come down and say that you have been guilty of violating the rights of Louisvillians, that means a great deal.”
Metro Councilman Anthony Piagentini
“The fact that they are not being held accountable, the fact that they were even mentioned in a remotely positive light was galling to me. And frankly, I don’t know why the Department of Justice is not looking at criminal violations against our former mayor and our former police chief. This is a pattern of practice investigation. Those individuals, those officers that broke the law, most of them have or will be held accountable. There are laws to holding them accountable. Who’s holding the mayor accountable who created the circumstances of which this department has now been indicted? Who’s holding the chief accountable for his role in what happened here? And I think it’s disgusting that individual people and the citizens of this community have suffered from a poorly led police department that the two people that were the most responsible that are just riding off into the sunset collecting their pensions and nothing’s gonna happen to them. I think that’s disgusting and I don’t know why the DOJ and others aren’t looking at some level of accountability for them.
“The taxpayers here are going to completely take it in the gut in all kinds of ways. It’s not just money. I come back to the people of the public who have suffered under bad police policies and I reject wholeheartedly people that look to the rank and file for being accountable to that. The rank and file do what they’re ordered to do, what they’re trained to do, what the policies tell them to do. And if those policies, training and funding failed, then that comes back to the administration and Greg Fischer.”
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