Just days before the three-year anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s death, her family has responded to the recent revelations made by federal officials.
The community’s reaction to the news of a federal civil rights probe into the Louisville Metro Police’s patterns and practices have been swift two years after its launch.
Although this investigation is separate from the Department of Justice’s probe into Taylor’s death, her name was mentioned by Attorney General Merrick Garland during his appearance in Louisville, as her death was seen as a symptom of larger issues within the department.
Tamika Palmer, Taylor’s mother, acknowledged that while Wednesday was a significant day, it was not a vindication, and changes would need to be made and enforced to prevent history from repeating itself.
Attorney Lonita Baker emphasized that the only positive outcome of losing her daughter was the potential for others to avoid a similar fate.
For years, the Louisville police force has been found to have discriminated against Black people and people with disabilities, used excessive force, conducted unlawful stops and searches, and engaged in other practices that deprived people of their constitutional rights. This conclusion was reached after a two-year investigation by the Department of Justice.
To address these issues, Attorney General Merrick Garland and Mayor Craig Greenberg announced an agreement to overhaul policing in Louisville. One of the main drivers of the nationwide demonstrations over policing and racial injustice in 2020 was the death of Breonna Taylor.
Ms. Taylor, a Black medical worker, was shot and killed by police officers during a botched raid on her apartment in March 2020. However, no officer has ever been charged with shooting her. On Aug. 4, 2022, the Justice Department charged four current and former police officers with federal civil rights violations, including lying to obtain a search warrant for Ms. Taylor’s apartment.
Kelly Goodlett, a detective who retired after getting charged, pleaded guilty at a hearing on Aug. 23. Another officer, Kyle Meany, was fired by the Louisville Police Department on Aug. 19.
Brett Hankison, the third officer facing federal charges, was the only officer to face state charges in the raid. He was indicted on a charge of wanton endangerment of neighbors whose apartment was hit when he fired without a clear line of sight into Ms. Taylor’s apartment. He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted.
A New York Times investigation found that the raid was compromised by poor planning and reckless execution. The only support for a grand jury’s conclusion that the officers had announced themselves before bursting into Ms. Taylor’s apartment, beyond the officers’ own assertions, was the account of a single witness who had given inconsistent statements.
Ms. Taylor’s family has long pleaded for justice, and her case began to draw national attention in May 2020. Later that year, Louisville officials agreed to pay $12 million to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by Ms. Taylor’s mother and to institute reforms aimed at preventing deaths by officers.
In December 2022, a lawyer for Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, said that the city of Louisville had agreed to pay $2 million to settle lawsuits brought by Mr. Walker.
Following national demonstrations in 2020 over police brutality and systemic racism, Louisville officials banned the use of no-knock warrants, which allow the police to forcibly enter people’s homes to search them without warning, and fired several officers, including Mr. Hankison, who was found to have shown “an extreme indifference to the value of human life.”
Critics, however, say progress in the case has been slow, especially when compared with the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, where officers were swiftly fired and charged.
The Department of Justice’s two-year investigation found that the Louisville police force has discriminated against Black people and people with disabilities, used excessive force.