LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville Metro Police Department needs more diversity among its leadership and must work to improve trust with the community, especially among Black residents, a consulting firm said in a sweeping report of the department.
The city hired the Chicago firm Hillard Heintze last summer as daily protests raged in the streets over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. The city’s police chief had recently been fired and activists and Black community leaders were calling for criminal prosecution for the officers involved in the March shooting of Taylor.
Taylor, a 26-year-old Black emergency medical worker, was fatally shot by officers serving a narcotics warrant at her apartment. She was shot multiple times after Taylor’s boyfriend fired a single shot when her front door was forced open.
The 155-page report released Thursday was touted by Louisville’s mayor as a “top-to-bottom” review of the department and its practices. It calls for a “true transformation of the department.”
“Many of Louisville’s communities of colour do not trust the police force due to generations of problematic relations,” the report said. “Additionally, many LMPD officers are unsure they want to be part of the department and are considering leaving policing altogether.”
The report found morale was at a low ebb in the department. A survey by the firm found that 75% of officers polled said they had considered leaving their job.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said many reforms have been enacted in the city since Taylor’s death, including a new city law that banned so-called “no knock” warrants. The warrants allow officers to enter a home without first announcing themselves. Louisville also hired a new police chief, former Atlanta chief Erika Shields, to lead the department.
The report found that Louisville police supervisors generally approved the probable cause statements in search warrants “without performing an in-depth review” of the content. At least one claim in the warrant used to enter Taylor’s home — that officers confirmed she was accepting packages for a suspected drug dealer — has been found to be false. The detective later admitted he did not confirm that part of the warrant with a postal inspector.
Some officers interviewed for the report complained that the department’s narcotics unit is “often driven by competition over who can seize the most drugs.” That can lead some narcotics detectives to avoid involving the department’s specialized SWAT team “because it could slow down their process of applying for and executing a search warrant,” the report said.
The plainclothes officers who served the warrant at Taylor’s home were not accompanied by SWAT officers, and none of the officers turned on their body cameras during the incident. Two of the three officers who fired shots at Taylor’s home have since been fired, along with the detective who sought the warrant.
Fischer said he believes a transformation of the department is possible.
“The nature of the audit … is to expose gaps so we can address them, that’s what we want,” said Fischer, a Democrat in his third term as mayor. “Denial is not a strategy.”
The report highlighted the police department’s lack of diversity, especially among its mid-level leadership. About six per cent of the department’s sergeants and 10% of its lieutenants are people of colour, the report said. The entire force is about 12% Black, while Louisville’s general population is about 21% Black.
Dylan Lovan, The Associated Press