Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Monday the Department of Justice will open a probe into policing in Louisville, Kentucky, following the March 2020 shooting death of Breonna Taylor.
According to Garland, the “pattern or practice” probe will attempt to decipher whether there has been a history of abuse stemming from police practices in the city, and the goal is to “ensure the policing policies and practices are constitutional and lawful.”
In addition, Garland said the investigation seeks to determine whether the Louisville Metro Police Department uses unreasonable force, takes part in unconstitutional searches and seizures, and issues unlawful search warrants on private homes.
Taylor, an emergency medical worker, was shot multiple times by officers who entered her home using a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation last March. The warrant used to search her home was connected to a suspect who did not live there. Since Taylor’s death, the use of no-knock warrants has been banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.
This is not the first time Garland is using federal power to investigate a local law enforcement agency. Last week, Garland announced the Justice Department will launch an investigation into the policing practices in Minneapolis following the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd.
“Although the state’s prosecution was successful, I know that nothing can fill the void that the loved ones of George Floyd have felt since his death,” Garland stated last week. “Yesterday’s verdict in the state criminal trial does not address potentially systemic policing issues in Minneapolis.”
While former President Donald Trump’s Justice Department opted to allow local agencies the freedom to conduct their own investigations, former President Barack Obama, much like President Joe Biden, allowed his justice department to influence and control certain local law enforcement agencies with court-enforced agreements.
“Under President Obama, the Justice Department opened investigations into more than two dozen police agencies and secured court-enforceable agreements in more than a dozen cases to force changes in local law enforcement policy,” USA Today reported in April 2017.
According to USA Today, an agreement was made with Ferguson, Missouri police after the 2014 death of an 18-year-old suspect and a similar agreement with Baltimore police after the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.
Both Biden and Harris vowed to keep politics out of the Department of Justice.
“It’s not my Justice Department. It’s the people’s Justice Department,” Biden told CNN in December, further stating that those in charge at his DOJ would have the “independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn’t.”
Harris echoed Biden’s sentiment, saying decisions coming from within the Justice Department “should not be influenced by politics.”
“We will not tell the Justice Department how to do its job,” Harris said previously. “Any decision coming out of the Justice Department and particularly the United States Department of Justice should be based on facts, it should be based on the law, it should not be influenced by politics. Period.”