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Kentucky Republican candidates clash over investigation following Breonna Taylor’s death

By Ben Kamisar

The Republicans who want to be the next governor of Kentucky are clashing over the investigation of the Louisville Metro Police Department following the shooting death of Breonna Taylor during a police raid on her apartment in 2020.

During Monday’s debate, former United Nations Ambassador Kelly Craft echoed a line of criticism her campaign has aired in recent television advertising: that state Attorney General Daniel Cameron sold out police by allowing the Department of Justice to investigate the police department after Taylor’s death.

“Let’s talk about the attorney general appreciating Merrick Garland coming into Louisville, this woke DOJ, allowing Merrick Garland by saying: I appreciate him being here. I appreciate the fact that he’s going to now oversee the Louisville Metro Police Department,” she said.

“What does that say about backing the blue? We need to have complete confidence in our law enforcement.”

It’s part of a broader red-meat strategy for Craft as she tries to catch Cameron in the race for the GOP nomination, focusing heavily on cultural issues and painting herself as a fighter against the left.

But in this instance, Craft is reopening one of the most painful wounds in the nation’s recent struggle over racism and police conduct, months after the Justice Department’s investigation into the department found a “pattern and practice” of improper policing in Louisville.

After touting support from “over 100 law enforcement officials” in his campaign, Cameron shot back and criticized Craft by saying she’s either “naïve, or she doesn’t understand how the process works.

“The DOJ had a completely separate responsibility from what we did in terms of our investigation in Louisville. And I respect that decision that they made,” Cameron said.

“The fact of the matter is that Kelly has somehow made a determination that I could have stood at the Ohio River and told the Department of Justice they couldn’t come into the state. She’s either naïve or doesn’t understand how the process works.”

Police shot and killed Taylor while serving a warrant at her apartment in March of 2020. Her death, along with the murder of George Floyd months later while in Minneapolis police custody, helped to spark widespread national protests and calls for police reform.

A year after Taylor’s death, the Justice Department opened an investigation into the Louisville police department to look at whether it had a “pattern or practice” of unconstitutional policing.

The investigation ultimately found that the department “uses excessive force…conducts searches based on invalid warrants….[and] unlawfully discriminates against Black people in its enforcement activities,” along with other findings. The findings resulted in a “consent decree,” an agreement between the Justice Department and the police department on steps the force has to take to rectify those findings.

A recent ad from Craft criticized that agreement, framing it as Cameron “letting big government push their diversity agenda while crime skyrocketed.”

No officers were directly charged with killing Taylor under Kentucky law after Cameron’s office presented the case to a grand jury. One officer was accused of wanton endangerment but was subsequently found not guilty. Federal prosecutors have charged four officers with violating Taylor’s civil rights.

During an interview earlier this year with WHAS11, Cameron said “I was proud of the work” his office did in the case. And when asked about a local police union criticizing the findings of the Justice Department investigation, Cameron replied that “we appreciate and respect the work the Department of Justice has done,” the line Craft appears to have been paraphrasing during Monday’s debate.

Ben Kamisar is a deputy political editor in NBC’s Political Unit.


This article was originally published here.