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ACLU to update residents on ‘excessive force’ suit against LMPD

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In 2020, the ACLU of Kentucky and NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund sued Louisville Metro Police over the department’s alleged use of force against protesters who took to the streets demanding justice for the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Kaili Moss, a legal fellow with the ACLU, said the lawsuit is slated to advance out of its initial stages soon. In preparation for that, the organization will host a community meeting on Wednesday to update residents about its progress and get their feedback.

“We want to stop this from happening again so that citizens feel free to protest injustice consistent with the First Amendment. And so what we want to make sure is that whatever we ask of the police department, that it’s reflective of what the community wants,” Moss said. “And that any such potential policy change that comes out of our lawsuit will help — and not hurt — communities of color, which are the most impacted by police violence.”

The civil rights organizations are representing several people who participated in the racial justice protests. In the lawsuit, plaintiffs are seeking monetary compensation to cover damages and attorney fees. They’re also petitioning the court to prohibit LMPD from using crowd-control weapons, like tear gas, pepper balls and flash bangs — and to require the city to create policies that clearly define what situations warrant use of force.

Over the last two years, the U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating whether the police department has a “pattern or practice” of using excessive force and violating constitutional rights. Its outcome is expected to be announced soon.

While the DOJ hasn’t released any information about its progress, past similar investigations have resulted in consent decrees. Those are essentially agreements between the federal government and cities subject to investigation that require police departments to implement reforms.

Federal oversight and mandated reforms could be expensive for the city — potentially costing up to $10 million annually to cover things like hiring a team to monitor progress, training, community surveys and studies.

Reforms are likely to align with findings of an independent audit of the LMPD — including revisions to the department’s standard operating procedures to more clearly define guidelines around use of force and warrant executions. Moss said the demands of the class-action lawsuit will remain the same regardless of what changes the DOJ proposes.

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