Newly released information about the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD)—the same police department that killed Breonna Taylor after a botched search warrant—continues to shed light on the corrupted mindset the department has. According to The Courier-Journal, the department concealed at least 738,000 records documenting the sexual abuse of Explorer Scouts, a youth program for minors interested in law enforcement, by two officers.
Records confirm it then lied to keep the files away from the public eye. “I have practiced open records law since the law was enacted 45 years ago, and I have never seen anything so brazen,” Jon Fleischaker, an attorney for The Courier-Journal, said. “I think it an outrage.” The outlet requested all the records in regards to the officers’ sexual abuse of minors last year only to be told that the records were turned over to the FBI for investigation. However, recently obtained records from an appeals case found this to be untrue. The records not only detail when the department and city officials first heard of the allegations but what actions they took after.
Reporter Matt Glowicki filed requests for investigative files after officers Brandon Wood and Kenneth Betts were accused of sexually abusing youths in the Explorer program. In response, both the LMPD and Assistant Jefferson County Attorney Annale Taylor claimed that: “LMPD does not have possession or control of the records.” Additionally, they added that all materials have been removed from LMPD possession.
But this statement was contradicted by Louisville Sgt. Robert Banta, who told Taylor in an email he could provide “any and all documents involved in the Explorer investigation up until April 1, 2017, when the federal investigation was initiated,” The Courier-Journal reported.
“All that information still resides in the PIU (Professional Integrity Unit) case file and is available to the county attorney’s office,” Banta said in his June 6, 2019 email. The outlet then found that a little over two weeks after claiming the department had no records, Taylor found a “hidden folder” with about “9,000 documents.” This back and forth continued to find that hundreds of thousands of documents were found and deleted, including 9,700 folders with almost 738,000 documents’ worth of data.
Not only did the city fail to prevent the sexual abuse of children, it failed to take action against the officers who committed this crime. Taylor left the county attorney’s office last March and now works in City Hall. She did not respond to requests for comment.
While the LMPD also had no comment, Mayor Greg Fischer noted that the city had destroyed the records and that The Courier-Journal does not have to go to the FBI if the LMPD has them. “They have destroyed their ability to comply with the open records law, and they did it purposely, and they didn’t tell the truth about it,” he said. “They can’t require us to go elsewhere to get those documents.”
The Explorer program has since then been shut down. As the investigations continue and lawsuits remain pending, both Wood and Betts remain in prison following a guilty plea. Investigations by former U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey found that the LMPD mishandled allegations of sexually abused minors and failed to determine if the abuse was widespread, resulting in Wood and Betts’ imprisonment.
Wood was sentenced to 70 months in prison for attempted enticement of a teen in the youth mentoring program, and Brett was given 16 years on charges of child pornography and enticement, The Courier-Journal reported.
Additionally, a third Louisville Metro Police officer was charged with sexual abuse of a minor in the department’s same program on Nov. 3. Officer Brad Schuhmann resigned from the department last week, according to WDRB. He is set to plead guilty on Nov.16.
Schuhmann allegedly abused a girl in his police cruiser and sought sexual pictures and acts from her. Along with Betts and Wood, he is also accused in seven federal lawsuits of hiding evidence of his abuse by intimidation, destruction of evidence, deletion of information, and refusal to comply with the Kentucky Open Records Act, according to the lawsuits.
“Over and over again, this is a police department that obfuscates and fails to remember it works for the taxpayers of Louisville and our commonwealth,” The Courier Journal’s Richard Green said. “We will continue to vigilantly pursue the truth and these records, which must be analyzed.
“The Explorer case represents a total breakdown in trust between police and teens who had an interest in the law enforcement profession,” Green added. “To now dodge the public’s access to these documents speaks to an institutional disregard for the Open Records Act and the very residents LMPD is to serve and protect. My frustration with how it’s been handled only underscores our commitment to dig even deeper and hold those in power to account.”
But this isn’t the only incident of sexual assault LMPD officers have committed.
One of the officers involved in the tragic shooting of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman, is being investigated for sexual assault following a lawsuit. Officer Brett Hankinson is one of the three officers who fired a weapon into Taylor’s home the night she died on March 13. While he was not charged in connection to Taylor’s death, Hankinson was fired and charged with three counts of first-degree wanton endangerment for “blindly” firing and endangering individuals in the neighboring apartment.
According to the lawsuit, Margo Borders was “willfully, intentionally, painfully and violently” sexually assaulted by Hankison after he offered her a ride home from a bar in 2018. Borders initially publicly accused the former officer in a Facebook post on June 4, in which she called him a “predator of the worst kind.” She detailed her horrific story and the condition Hankison left her in.
The suit was filed Tuesday in Jefferson County Circuit Court by Sam Aguiar and Lonita Baker, attorneys for Taylor’s family, along with Steve Romines, an attorney for Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. The suit also includes comments from nine other women who claim either inappropriate conduct or sexual assault by Hankison.
A second woman shared her story on Instagram of Hankison also giving her a ride home.
“I thought to myself, ‘Wow. That is so nice of him,'” Terry wrote. “And willingly got in. He began making sexual advances towards me; rubbing my thigh, kissing my forehead, and calling me ‘baby.’ Mortified, I did not move. I continued to talk about my grad school experiences and ignored him. As soon as he pulled up to my apartment building, I got out of the car and ran to the back.” She added that despite the incident being reported the next day “nothing came from it.”
Not only has the Louisville Metro Police Department failed to hold the officers who killed Taylor accountable for their actions, but they continue to hide the abuse their officers commit. These crimes and abuses cannot go unpunished and the department needs to be reevaluated.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.