The Louisville Metro Police Department is under scrutiny after the United States Justice Department published a report which reveals the agency’s repeated use of excessive force and other violations. As part of its two-year investigation, the DOJ concluded that Louisville officers most recently released a police dog on a 14-year-old child, causing the boy to be hospitalized.
According to the DOJ’s 86-page report, the incident involving the 14-year-old boy was one of two similar violations Louisville officers committed on Wednesday. An officer spotted the teen lying on the ground and allowed the dog to attack and gnaw “the child’s arm,” the report states.
“The officer was leading his dog to search for a person suspected of a home invasion. After searching for several minutes, the officer saw the teenager lying on the ground, face down in the grass,” the DOJ stated. “Immediately after noticing the teen, the officer deployed his dog off-leash — without giving any warning — and ordered the dog to bite the teen at least seven times.”
The report adds that the boy didn’t pose a threat to the public or any police officers, and he didn’t resist detainment. In an audio recording, the teen can be heard yelling “Okay! Okay! Help! Get the dog please!”
Despite the child’s plea, the officer allowed the attack to go on for half a minute, watching the dog as its teeth locked into the teen’s limbs, the investigation added. The boy was taken to the hospital after he sustained injuries on his arm and back, as well as intense trauma.
Louisville police also allowed another person to be attacked by a dog while the person was complying with orders, the DOJ added.
“These bites went on for far longer than was necessary, and given the way that officers spoke to these individuals, we have serious concerns that these uses of force were punitive, reflecting a dangerous lack of self-control by the officers and subjecting these individuals to excruciating uses of force far beyond lawful limits,” officials stated.
The report found several other violations committed by the LMPD, including unjustified neck restraints and unreasonable use of tasers, as well as use of invalid warrants and search warrants executed without knocking and announcing.
Additionally, the investigation concluded that the LMPD unlawfully discriminated against Black people in the police department’s enforcement activities. The department also violated the rights of people who engage in protected speech critical of policing, the report added.
The DOJ launched its investigation in 2021 after police raided the home of Breonna Taylor and killed the 26-year-old woman as she was sleeping, the Courier Journal reported. The investigation aimed to assess “all types of force” used by the city’s law enforcement and to determine if police have a trend of violating the First Amendment rights of residents. Additionally, the DOJ examined the possibility of police conducting unreasonable searches and seizures of properties, a violation of the Fourth Amendment.
Attorney General Merrick Garland held a press conference on the same day the report was released, the Atlanta BlackStar reported. Garland, standing with Louisville’s mayor and acting police chief at the news briefing, said law enforcement “has undermined its public safety mission and strained its relationship with the community it is meant to protect and serve.”
“This conduct is unacceptable,” he said. “It is heartbreaking.”
“Now that the DOJ has concluded their investigation and presented their findings, we will continue our efforts in improving public safety in Louisville and making LMPD the premier police department in the country,” the LMPD said in a statement.