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Louisville police oversight body is granted power to interview officers and access body-cam footage

By Celina Tebor and Eric Levenson, CNN

A Louisville police oversight body will now have the power to interview police officers and to directly access body camera footage as part of an agreement with the Louisville Metro Police Department, Mayor Craig Greenberg announced Tuesday.

The memorandum of understanding between the city’s Office of Inspector General and LMPD is part of an effort by the city’s new leadership to increase transparency and trust, the mayor said.

“Our goal is to make LMPD the most trained, trusted and transparent police department in America, and today’s announcement is an important step in the right direction, especially when it comes to trust and transparency,” he said.

The inspector general’s office was established in 2020 after the botched raid in which police shot and killed Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, inside her home. The killing, along with other incidents of police violence against Black people in the US, led to mass protests in Louisville and elsewhere under the Black Lives Matter movement.

The inspector general’s office, independent of the LMPD, was tasked with investigating complaints against the police and presenting recommendations to the Civilian Review and Accountability Board. However, Greenberg said police officers were not agreeing to participate in interviews or granting the office access to raw body-camera footage. The memorandum of understanding states they are required to do so, he said.

Both Greenberg and Louisville interim Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel came into office earlier this year.

“The LMPD is truly wanting to be open and transparent and do what is right and what is best for the community, but also to ensure that our officers understand their due process as we move along with working with the Inspector General’s Office,” Gwinn-Villaroel said.

Louisville Inspector General Edward Harness said the changes will put the office on “equal-ish” terms with the police department’s Professional Standards Unit that conducts internal investigations.

The announcement comes almost exactly three years since Breonna Taylor’s death.

Last week, the Department of Justice issued a scathing report stating the LMPD routinely used excessive force and practiced “an aggressive style of policing” against Black people. The investigators said the abuses extended to the disabled and sexual assault victims.

“LMPD cites people for minor offenses, like wide turns and broken taillights, while serious crimes like sexual assault and homicide go unsolved,” the report stated. “Some officers demonstrate disrespect for the people they are sworn to protect. Some officers have videotaped themselves throwing drinks at pedestrians from their cars; insulted people with disabilities; and called Black people ‘monkeys,’ ‘animal,’ and ‘boy.'”

Louisville police used “unreasonable tactics” including unjustified neck restraints, police dogs and tasers, the DOJ found. The report also found that the police department executed search warrants without knocking and announcing.

The report recommended a number of remedial measures the city and police department should take, including increasing civilian oversight.

“We’ve been prepared to take on those investigations in the way that the Department of Justice would want us to do so,” Harness said Tuesday.

The scope of the investigations is not criminal but “administrative,” Harness said. The inspector general cannot prosecute officers, according to the mayor’s office.

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