Breonna Taylor is Not Forgotten: Department of Justice Finds Civil Rights Violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department and the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government

By Alejandrea Brown*

Police violence and misconduct against Black people in America is not a new phenomenon. Studies have shown that Black people are 3.23 times more likely than White people to be killed by the police.[1] The lack of accountability concerning police misconduct and violence against the Black community is also not new trend.[2]  That being said, recent federal civil rights violations and policing deficiencies discovered by the Department of Justice concerning certain policing agencies and localities, illustrate a movement towards accountability and correcting injustice for those who were murdered by those who took an oath to protect.

Breonna Taylor was an Emergency Medical Technician for the city of Louisville, Kentucky, and aspired to become a nurse.[3] This dream was taken from Breonna Taylor; on March 13th, 2020, she was gunned down in her own home by police officers.[4] Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old Black woman whose life was cut short due to police violence and misconduct involving a no-knock warrant.[5] The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) intended to search her home because of a suspicion that she received packages allegedly related to drug activity by her ex-boyfriend.[6]

At the time of the incident, Breonna Taylor and her boyfriend Kenneth Walker were in bed.[7] Upon hearing a loud banging at the door, they called out asking who was at the door.[8] After police broke down the door, Kenneth Walker fired his gun once, hitting Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly in his thigh.[9] Police officers returned fire, Breonna Taylor was struck several times and was not given any medical attention.[10]

The officers involved were not charged with the murder of Breonna Taylor.[11] However, on August 4th, 2022, the Department of Justice charged four former and current police officers with federal civil rights violations that were related to the death of Breonna Taylor.[12] Specifically, the Department of Justice alleged that members of LMPD’s Placed-Based Investigations Unit falsified the affidavit that was used to obtain the search warrant for Breonna Taylor’s home.[13] Specifically, the information used to obtain the warrant lacked probable cause because, it was false, stale, and misleading. Also, the warrant affidavit claimed officers used Breonna Taylor’s address as his current home address, however, officers knew that this information was incorrect.[14] Lastly, officers admitted knowing that the warrant would be executed a night and that the likeliness for having weapons drawn increased the risk of injury or death to the person or people in that home.[15] The instance of falsifying the affidavit along with other violations, violated federal civil rights laws and resulted in the death of Breonna Taylor. [16]

Ultimately, after a comprehensive investigation, the Department of Justice announced that the LMPD and the Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government (Louisville Metro) engaged in the practice of conduct or in a pattern that violates the American Constitution and federal law.[17] The investigation was conducted under 34 U.S.C. § 12601 (Section 12601), which prohibits law enforcement from engaging in patterns or practices of conduct that deprives people of rights protected by federal or Constitutional law.[18] Additional protections include, the Safe Streets Act of 1968, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act.[19]

The Department of Justice found that LMPD:[20] (1) uses excessive force, including unjustified neck restraints and the unreasonable use of police dogs and tasters; (2) conducts searches based on invalid warrants; (3) unlawfully executes search warrants without knocking and announcing; (4) unlawfully stops, searches, detains, and arrests people during street enforcement activities, including traffic and pedestrian stops; (5) unlawfully discriminates against Black people in its enforcement activities; (6) violates the rights of people engaged in protected free speech critical of policing; and (7) along with Louisville Metro, discriminates against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to them in crisis.

Additionally, the Department of Justice identified other deficiencies concerning the response and investigation of domestic violence and sexual assault by LMPD.[21] These deficiencies also identified responses to allegations that LMPD officers engaged in domestic violence and sexual misconduct.[22]  Lastly, LMPD and Louisville Metro’s deficiencies in its training, policies, supervision, and accountability, contributes to their unlawful conduct.[23] These findings by the Department of Justice are separate from the department’s criminal cases against LMPD concerning federal crimes related to the murder of Breonna Taylor.

            The implications of the Department of Justice’s investigation illustrate disproportionate stops, searches, and arrests of Black people without required constitutional justification.[24] Notably, LMPD officers used excessive and dangerous tactics against people who posed no imminent threat to the officers or others.[25]Disturbingly, the Department of Justice found that officers violate fundamental principles of equal justice and misdirect their resources by targeting and disproportionately subjecting Black residents to unlawful policing.[26] The Department of Justice intends on working with community members and law enforcement to initiate reform and change in the deficiencies found during the investigation.[27]

Time will reveal if federal intervention and interference can be a possible solution to combat disproportionate police misconduct and violence against Black members in the community who have historically and continually lived through these experiences in America.

[1] See, Gabriel L. Schwartz &  Jaquelyn L. Jahn Mapping Fatal Police Violence Across U.S. Metropolitan Areas: Overall Rates and Racial/Ethnic Inequities, 2013–2017 Plos One (2020),; See also, Dayvon Love, Police Accountability, Hum. Rts. Mag., 46 (2021), (explaining how the humanity of Black people has been under attack since the middle passage).

[2] Id. (explaining how police agencies throughout the county have been exposed for their corruption and participation in police brutality and institutional patterns of behavior that harms Black people).

[3] Euell A. Nielsen, Breonna Taylor (1993-2020), (2020), BlackPast

[4] Id.

[5] Legal Defense Fund, Justice Denied: An Overview of the Grand Jury Proceedings in the Breonna Taylor Case,

[6] Id.

[7] Richard A. Oppel, Derrick Bryson Taylor, & Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, What to Know About Breonna Taylor’s Death, N.Y.Times (Mar. 2023),

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Id. ; See also, Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Current and Former Louisville, Kentucky Police Officers Charged with Federal Crimes Related to Death of Breonna Taylor (Aug. 4, 2022),

[12] Id. See also, (Goodlett faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to 250K, litigation for Hankinson and Jaynson is ongoing).

[13] See, Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Former Louisville, Kentucky, Police Detective Pleads Guilty to a Federal Crime Related to the Death of Breonna Taylor, (Aug. 23, 2022)

[14] Id.

[15] Id.

[16] Id. (detailing the other violations).

[17] See Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Justice Department Finds Civil Rights Violations by the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville/Jefferson County Metro Government, (March 8, 2023),

[18] Id.

[19] Id.

[20] Id. (explaining there is reasonable cause to believe that Louisville Metro and LMPD engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the Constitutional eights of the residents of Louisville).

[21] Id.

[22] Id.

[23] Id.

[24] Id.

[25] Id.

[26] Id.

[27] Id.


*Alejandrea Brown is a staffer for JLI Vol. 41.