Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced on Monday a sweeping Justice Department investigation into the Louisville, Ky., metro police and the county government there, the second time in a week that the department has opened a civil investigation into a police force that prompted national furor for the killing of an unarmed Black person.
The Louisville police came under fire after officers mistakenly raided the home of a Black medical worker named Breonna Taylor last March and shot her to death. Her killing helped fuel nationwide racial justice protests last year.
Critics have decried the pace of the investigation into her death. A grand jury indicted Brett Hankinson, a former Louisville detective involved in the raid, for wanton endangerment of Ms. Taylor’s neighbors, whose apartment was hit when he fired his gun. No one was charged for the death of Ms. Taylor.
“Today’s announcement is based on an extensive overview of publicly available information,” Mr. Garland said in brief remarks at the Justice Department. He said that the inquiry into both the police and the Jefferson County government will be conducted by the department’s Civil Rights Division and that it will assess whether the police department “engages in a pattern or practice of using unregulated or unreasonable force.”
Mr. Garland said last week that the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, a day after the former officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd.
The inquiries show that the Biden administration is seeking to apply stricter oversight of local departments amid a national outcry over police abuse.
Derrick Johnson, national president of the N.A.A.C.P., applauded Monday’s announcement, saying “true justice comes with accountability and action.”
“The relationship between law enforcement and our community has been deeply fractured and shattered by the lack of trust and the little-to-no accountability enforced when police commit a crime,” he said. “For far too long, killings at the hands of police have only led to one hashtag after another.”
Such investigations into whether a department’s policing practices are unconstitutional are often the precursors to court-approved agreements between the Justice Department and local governments that create and enforce a road map for operational changes at police departments.
The investigation into the Louisville Police Department that Mr. Garland announced on Monday is separate from the Justice Department’s ongoing criminal investigation into the death of Ms. Taylor, announced last May.