A Louisville police officer used drug charges against women to coerce them into sending explicit photos, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division.
The division on Wednesday published a report following an investigation into alleged wrongdoings of members of the Louisville Metro Police Department. The report says that the officers “engage in a pattern or practice of conduct that violates the U.S. Constitution and federal law,” the DOJ said in a press release.
One portion of the report includes an example from an investigation in which a narcotics detective with the department was having sexual relations with a woman “whom he had charged with drug possession.”
“The woman also provided investigators with the names of two other women the detective was similarly exploiting. When the woman’s daughter told the investigator that the detective had texted her photos of his genitalia and leveraged the charges over her to coerce her into sending him photos of herself, she said: ‘if he’s doing it to me, he’s doing it to somebody else,'” the report said.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks during a press conference on the Justice Departments findings of the civil rights investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department and Louisville Metro Government on March 8, 2023, in Louisville, Kentucky. In inset, a window of police headquarters damaged during protests is seen on May 29, 2020, in Louisville. On March 8, 2023, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division published a report detailing alleged violations that members of the Louisville Metro Police Department committed. Luke Sharrett/AFP; Brett Carlsen/Getty Images
“Five years later, three more women came forward with similar accusations against the detective. This time, an administrative investigator reached the same conclusion as the detective’s first known victim: that he had ‘target[ed] drug addicts’ and ‘low income individuals, mostly living in the Portland neighborhood’ for sexual coercion.”
The report comes as the Louisville Metro Police Department has faced backlash following the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman killed in her apartment in 2020. One of the officers involved, Brett Hankinson, was charged with three counts of felony wanton endangerment, but a jury found him not guilty.
In another example cited in the report, the former girlfriend of a Louisville Metro officer filed a protection order against him saying that she was threatened with violence and “had tracked her activity, possibly with law enforcement technology.” According to the report, the protection order was dismissed 12 days later and the department never executed any administrative investigations into the officer in question.
Among other violations, the report concluded that the department used excessive force, conducted searches on invalid warrants, conducted unlawful stops, detains and arrests, unlawfully discriminated against Black individuals and discriminated against people with behavioral health disabilities.
“This unacceptable and unconstitutional conduct erodes the community trust necessary for effective policing. It is also an affront to the vast majority of officers who put their lives on the line to serve Louisville with honor. And it is an affront to the people of Louisville who deserve better,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
“The Justice Department will work closely with Louisville Metro and LMPD to negotiate toward a consent decree and durable reforms that protect both the safety and civil rights of Louisville’s residents.”
In response to the report, Louisville Metro Police Interim Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said, “We are committed to ensuring police practices not only reflect constitutional principles, but the values of the communities served by LMPD. We recognize that the process of reform is complex and will require sustained effort.
“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 men and women of LMPD are LMPD’s greatest resource, our officers are committed to upholding the Constitution with honor and distinction while carrying out their important duties to ensure public safety.”
Newsweek was directed to Gwinn-Villaroel’s remarks after contacting the Louisville Metro Police Department for comment.