Mayor Fischer announces settlement in civil lawsuit filed by Breonna Taylor’s estate
Mayor Greg Fischer announced today that Louisville Metro Government (LMG) has settled a civil lawsuit with the estate of Breonna Taylor, including a $12 million payment and an agreement on several policy changes and reforms, including new drug testing rules for LMPD officers, an incentive for officers to live in specific neighborhoods and a new level of scrutiny over search warrants.
“I cannot begin to imagine Ms. Palmer’s pain," Mayor Fischer said. “And I am deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death.”
Taylor was fatally shot on March 13, as Louisville Metro Police were executing a search warrant at her apartment as part of a larger drug investigation.
“Her death has ignited a movement in Louisville and the nation for racial justice, sending thousands into our streets and in cities all across the country and the world – all crying for justice for Breonna” and triggering a renewed commitment to addressing structural and systemic racism in our city and our country, the Mayor said.
Though the settlement does not change the past, he continued, “I hope it brings some measure of peace” for Taylor’s family, friends and the community.
Breonna’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said, “Justice for Breonna means that we will continue to save lives in her honor. No amount of money accomplishes that, but the police reform measures that we were able to get passed as a part of this settlement mean so much more to my family, our community, and to Breonna’s legacy. We know that there is much work still to be done and we look forward to continuing to work with community leaders, the Mayor’s Office, and other elected leaders to implement long-term sustainable change to fight systemic racism that is plaguing our communities.”
Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, who represented LMG in the settlement discussions, said it reflects a commitment by his office and the Mayor’s office to “work toward meaningful changes in our city. … Everyone around the table was dedicated to advancing those reforms for the whole community. Much time and effort went into this, and I offer my appreciation to all involved. (But) today alone is not enough. My hope is this agreement is the next step in building a more just Louisville. A more just Louisville is the medicine we need to heal.”
Benjamin Crump, an attorney for the Taylor family, agreed.
- “Nothing will ever fill the bottomless void left by the death of Breonna Taylor. This settlement, with the significant reform, ensures that her death has meaning and long-term impact – hopefully preventing the deaths of other Black lives. In my representation of George Floyd, Jacob Blake, Jr., Pamela Turner, and other cases where I have represented individuals impacted by police brutality, there has not been the responsive systematic reform as what has occurred in Louisville, KY in the name of Breonna Taylor. It’s not just the historic $12 million dollar settlement for the death of Breonna Taylor, which is one of the highest settlement amounts ever paid in America for the wrongful death of a Black woman by police BUT it is the comprehensive reform by the Mayor and his team that was equally important.”
As part of the settlement, Louisville Metro Government agreed to these reforms:
Community Related Police Programs
- Housing Credit Program: Metro will establish a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live within a Qualified Census Tract as their primary residence. Metro will review programs established in Atlanta, Chicago, San Diego, and DC as models for one in Louisville. The initiative will provide officers with a pathway to home ownership and improve community connections.
- Retain Social Workers: Metro commits to retaining social workers at LMPD for officer support and assistance on dispatched runs warranting a social worker’s presence. Metro is researching best practices and social worker qualifications to create an effective program. Metro plans to initially fund this new program through forfeiture funds by contracting for the services of social workers.
- Community Volunteering: Metro will encourage LMPD officers to volunteer 2 hours a pay period, during their regular work shift, at an organization in the community they serve.
Search Warrant Reforms
- LMPD has amended its Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) 8.1 on search warrants to require a commanding officer to review and approve all search warrants, affidavits in support of search warrants, and risk matrixes before an officer seeks judicial approval for a search warrant. SOP 8.1 has been updated concerning the simultaneous execution of search warrants at multiple locations. The commanding officer of the unit initiating the warrants will act as the overall Incident Commander with a separate on-scene Commanding Officer at each warrant location who will serve as the Deputy Incident Commander for that location. SOP 8.1 has been updated to require the presence of EMS units and/or paramedics for forced entry search warrants.
Police Accountability Reforms
- Currency Seizures: LMPD has modified SOP 11.3 with additional protocols for money seized as evidence. The additional policy expressly states that officers must have their body cameras activated for the entire seizure process, which includes counting, placing and sealing the currency into the currency evidence bag before its transport to the property room.
- IAPro: Metro will implement the early warning system of IAPro that tracks all use of force incidents, citizen complaints, investigations, and other key factors. Metro is committed to identifying any police officer in need of additional assistance or training. The reactivation of this system will require additional personnel to monitor and administer the program. As part of its top-to-bottom review, Hillard Heintze will evaluate criteria of the early warning system and recommend any needed improvements. Metro plans for the early warning system to be also monitored through the Office of Inspector General once this office is established.
- Drug testing: All officers are subject to random testing. Metro agrees to include in 2021 negotiations with the FOP an expansion of the random drug testing to ensure all officers are randomly tested at least once a year.
- Personnel files: Metro will negotiate with the FOP in 2021 to expand on the records it may maintain in police officers’ personnel files.
- PSU Investigations: Metro has updated its PSU investigation process regarding cases when a police officer separates from LMPD before the completion of his or her investigation. The police officer’s personnel file will include a PSU closing letter that states the Chief’s findings based on the evidence that exists in the file at the time of the separation from LMPD, if sufficient evidence exists in the record to make such a determination or that insufficient evidence exists to make a finding. If the nature of the complaint is significant enough to have reasonably resulted in the suspension of a police officer, the PSU investigation will continue gathering evidence to evaluate if additional officers or problems exist that require the PSU investigation continue.
“These are significant policy changes, on top of many others that we have already made, including those that are part of Breonna’s Law, as well as changes to policies on use of force and tear gas usage,” the Mayor said, while also thanking “the hard work of my team and that of County Attorney Mike O’Connell and his team, and the cooperation and thoughtfulness with which the Taylor family and her attorneys worked with us.”