Updated: July 31, 2020
Summary of steps involved in any officer-involved shooting, and details from this specific case:
Step 1: With any officer-involved shooting, the LMPD Public Integrity Unit (PIU) immediately opens an investigation that focuses on possible violations of state law on the part of the involved police employees, who are placed on administrative leave. In addition, LMPD holds a press conference within 24 hours of any officer-involved shooting, where they release any available body camera footage and information regarding the officers who discharged their weapons, which generally includes their personnel files.
Once the PIU investigation is substantially complete, it is turned over to the prosecutor for review. While the prosecutor is reviewing, PIU completes its investigation and fulfills any investigative requests from the prosecutor. The PIU and prosecutor work together until the prosecutor can determine whether criminal charges should be filed. Usually the local Commonwealth Attorney serves as prosecutor, but in the Breonna Taylor case, it is the state Attorney General, Daniel Cameron, acting as the prosecutor. (The Commonwealth Attorney recused himself because he was, at the time, prosecuting Kenneth Walker, Breonna’s boyfriend.)
Step 2: Once the prosecutor has decided to pursue or decline pursuit of criminal charges, the LMPD Professional Standards Unit (PSU) conducts a separate comprehensive investigation to determine whether any of the involved employees violated department policies. Sustained (proven and unjustified) violations of department policy can result in disciplinary actions by the Chief, ranging from counseling to termination, depending on the nature of the violation.
Step 3: Any discipline involving a suspension, demotion, or termination can be appealed by the impacted police officer to the Police Merit Board and then to Jefferson County Circuit Court.
Step 4: After the PSU investigation is complete, the Citizens Commission for Police Accountability reviews the case for failed processes and procedures. The Commission can then make recommendations to the Chief of Police for changes in policy and/or training.
Status of the Breonna Taylor case
The LMPD PIU turned over the bulk of its investigation into the Breonna Taylor case to the Kentucky Attorney General Cameron’s office on May 20; on June 18, the Attorney General (AG) confirmed that he had the majority of the case file. LMPD continues to comply with all of the AG’s requests for additional information and material.
The AG and the FBI have since both requested that no information be shared publicly from the investigative files to avoid jeopardizing ongoing investigations.
Mayor Fischer does not have the legal authority to criminally charge the officers – that is up to the AG for any violations of state law and the U.S. Department of Justice for any violations of federal law.
In addition to the AG’s review, there are separate independent investigations underway by the FBI into the shooting and the search warrant application. Its work will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Justice for consideration of federal prosecution.
LMPD Chief Rob Schroeder began termination proceedings against Officer Brett Hankison, one of the three officers at the scene, on June 19. State law – KRS 67C.326(1)(f) – prohibits the Mayor or other members of Louisville Metro Government from discussing this termination, stating: “When a police officer has been charged with a violation of departmental rules or regulations, no public statements shall be made concerning the alleged violation by any person or persons of the consolidated local government or the police officer so charged, until final disposition of the charges.”
Once the AG’s review is complete, a PSU investigation will be undertaken.
Timeline of the Breonna Taylor case
March 13: Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers executed a warrant at the apartment of Breonna Taylor. Though it was a no-knock warrant, the officers said they knocked and announced themselves before breaking down the door. Breonna’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, has said he heard pounding at the door, but did not hear anyone announce they were police. As officers entered, Walker fired one shot and hit one of the officers. In return fire, Ms. Taylor was fatally shot by police.
March 13: Per LMPD practice in officer-involved shootings, the department held a press conference to explain what took place. At the press conference, LMPD:
- Released the personnel records of the three officers who discharged their firearms. (No body camera footage was released because the undercover narcotics officers who served the warrant were not required to wear body cameras. That policy has since been changed – see May 18 below.)
- Announced that, per policy, the LMPD Public Integrity Unit would be investigating the shooting.
May 14: Responding to community concerns about a fair investigation, Mayor Fischer and then-Police Chief Conrad called for the FBI and the U.S. Attorney to review the LMPD PIU investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor.
May 18: Mayor and Chief announced that no-knock warrants would require sign off from Chief, and that all sworn officers are required to wear body cameras in the execution of all search warrants.
May 18: Mayor, Metro Council and faith leaders held a press conference to announce formation of a work group to recommend options for establishing a Civilian Review Board. Mayor Fischer says the group must have subpoena power, which may require a change to state law.
May 20: LMPD PIU delivered the PIU file to Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office.
May 21: Chief Conrad announced his retirement, effective June 30. Mayor Fischer announced that he would realign LMG’s Cabinet structure so LMPD reports to Amy Hess as Chief of Public Safety.
May 21: FBI announced its independent investigation into case.
May 22: Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine dropped charges against Kenneth Walker without prejudice, meaning he reserved the right to revisit this after further investigation.
May 27: Mayor and Metro Council President David James announced 33 individuals (and two co-chairs) who compose the Civilian Review Board work group.
May 28: Mayor Fischer released all calls, including 911 calls, from the night of Breonna Taylor’s death.
May 29: Mayor suspended the use of no-knock warrants indefinitely.
May 29: The US Attorney recused himself from case. Instead, the U.S. Department of Justice will determine if there were any violations of federal law.
May 29: Mayor announced a “Sentinel Event Review” into the Breonna Taylor case, with the goal of identifying and addressing any systemic flaws, preventing their recurrence, and earning public trust.
June 1: Mayor relieved Chief Conrad of his duties, after learning that officers at the fatal shooting of popular eatery owner David McAtee did not have their body cameras turned on. "This type of institutional failure will not be tolerated," said the Mayor, who has the authority to hire and fire LMPD’s Chief.
June 3: Mayor announced external top to bottom review of LMPD.
June 3: Mayor announced that a search for a new permanent police chief has begun, working with the Police Executive Research Forum.
June 10: Mayor announced survey for residents to share their priorities for new LMPD Chief.
June 10: After allegations that LMPD used tear gas on peaceful protesters, the department changed its policy to require that the Chief or his or her designee must sign off on its use.
June 11: Mayor announced broader review into allegations of sexual assault by LMPD Officer Brett Hankison.
June 12: Mayor signed Breonna’s Law, which bans use of “no-knock” warrants, sets guidelines for execution of all search warrants by LMPD and requires active body camera when a warrant is served.
June 18: LMPD policy was strengthened regarding an officer’s duty, regardless of rank, to intervene in the event he or she sees a fellow officer using excessive force.
June 19: Mayor announced that Chief Schroeder was initiating termination procedures against Officer Hankison. The Mayor was unable to comment further, per KRS67c, which says, “no public statements shall be made concerning the alleged violation" by local government officials "until final disposition of the charges."
June 23: Chief Schroeder terminated Officer Hankison, alleging in a termination letter that the officer "blindly" fired 10 rounds into Ms. Taylor's apartment, creating a substantial danger of death and serious injury.
July 2: Mayor announced Hillard Heintze firm to perform top to bottom review of LMPD.
July 23: Mayor outlined major police reform to bring greater accountability and transparency to LMPD, including this change: In the event of an officer-involved shooting where a person is injured or killed, LMPD will contact the Kentucky State Police to conduct an independent investigation of the incident.