Today, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded its investigation of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), finding that there is reasonable cause to believe that the LMPD has routinely violated the constitutional rights of residents of Louisville, Kentucky and unlawfully discriminated against Black people. Among these powerful findings, the investigation affirmed what the people of Louisville have long known: The police response to the racial justice protests of 2020 violated the First and Fourth Amendment rights of protesters.    

The LMPD has a long history of inflicting violence and trauma on Black Louisville residents, and attracted national scrutiny when its officers killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, while executing a no-knock warrant—premised on false information—in her own home.  

After Ms. Taylor’s killing, Louisville residents took to the streets to peacefully assemble and protest the LMPD’s violence and attempts to cover up its officers’ misconduct. Instead of respecting the civil and constitutional rights of the protesters and treating them with dignity, the LMPD waged war, bombarding peaceful protestors with tear gas, flash bangs, and pepper balls over several days. In July 2020, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF),  the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky (ACLU-KY), and law firm Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP filed a complaint against the City of Louisville, challenging the LMPD’s use of force to silence and suppress peaceful protesters and journalists throughout the summer and specifically challenging the use of tear gas and other indiscriminate weapons against crowds of people. That case remains ongoing. 

“We commend the Justice Department’s extensive investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department. As these findings make clear, the LMPD has a long history of discrimination against Black people, which has resulted in lasting harm to Black Louisvillians and continues to undermine public safety today,” said LDF President and Director-Counsel Janai Nelson. “There is a long road ahead to ensure that the people of Louisville can feel safe in their own city and in exercising constitutionally protected rights. And while law enforcement accountability is critical, it is equally important to provide impacted community members with relief for all the harm and trauma that they have endured.” 

“The LMPD has failed Louisville residents by violating their right to publicly protest the unjust and inhumane actions of LMPD officers. The DOJ’s findings have unearthed significant misconduct and a pattern of unconstitutional force and retaliatory conduct during these racial justice protests,” said LDF’s Director of Strategic Initiatives Jin Hee Lee. “Time and again, the LMPD used military-grade, crowd control weapons to inflict fear and injury on whole crowds of peaceful protesters in violation of their First and Fourth Amendment rights—often expressly approved of and, at times, directed by, senior LMPD and Louisville leadership. These findings must be followed with swift action—including a complete ban on the use of tear gas and other indiscriminate weapons at protest events—in order to safeguard the lives of Louisville residents.” 


Founded in 1940, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) is the nation’s first civil rights law organization. LDF’s Thurgood Marshall Institute is a multi-disciplinary and collaborative hub within LDF that launches targeted campaigns and undertakes innovative research to shape the civil rights narrative. In media attributions, please refer to us as the Legal Defense Fund or LDF. Please note that LDF has been completely separate from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) since 1957—although LDF was originally founded by the NAACP and shares its commitment to equal rights.