Louisville’s Two-Decade Fight For Civilian Oversight Of Police Thursday, Jul 2 2020 

Over the last 20 years, Louisville has developed a call-and-response that seems to echo through the decades — police shoot and kill a Black person in a manner that shocks the conscience. Protests erupt across the city, and city officials offer up an antidote to the furor: increased civilian oversight of the police department. 

It happened in 1999, when police killed Desmond Rudolph and the Board of Aldermen tried to pass an ordinance creating a civilian review board. 

It happened in 2003, when police killed James Taylor and the city got the Citizens Commission on Police Accountability. 

And it’s happening again, in 2020, as Mayor Greg Fischer proposes creating a new civilian review mechanism in response to the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Taylor Family

Protesters are calling for this increased oversight because previous efforts to create meaningful civilian review of the police department never really succeeded. 

And people who were around back then worry that, if city leaders don’t learn from the past, civilian review is doomed to fail again — and we’ll be having this same discussion, years from now, after the killing of another Black person.

“A whole new generation is rediscovering civilian review, which is good,” said local civil rights leader K.A. Owens, who advocated for civilian review in 1999. “I encourage the current city officials to study the prior ordinance and consult with people who were around at the time.”

Lawsuit stops first attempt 

On May 13, 1999, 18-year-old Rudolph attempted to flee from police in a stolen car. The car was stuck in an alley when two police officers on foot fired 22 rounds into the car, saying they feared Rudolph was going to run them down. 

He died four days later. A grand jury did not indict the officers, but the city’s public safety director found several problems with the officers’ response, according to an AP story at the time. 

The serious outcry, though, came months later, when the two officers were honored with awards for exceptional valor for their role in the shooting. Then-Mayor Dave Armstrong fired the police chief, leading nine commanders to step down and call for Armstrong’s resignation. 

A group called Citizens Against Police Abuse had already been advocating for civilian review, but in the fallout from the Rudolph killing, the idea began to gain support across the city. 

“We were having bad shootings, similar to what we’re having now,” remembers Owens, who helped organize the group. “We were seeing just abuse of people by the police, mainly in the Black community.” 

Owens said civilian oversight was intended to increase accountability for police officers, help root out systemic issues and rebuild trust between police and the communities they serve. At that time, before the city and county governments merged, Louisville was more than a third Black but the police force was only 16 percent Black.

More than 30 civil rights groups helped organize protests, sit-ins, door knocking and postcard campaigns to build support for civilian review. In 2000, a majority of the 12-member Board of Aldermen, the equivalent to today’s Metro Council, passed an ordinance. 

The ordinance created a Civilian Police Review Authority, with its own administrative and investigative staff. The 11-member board would investigate any complaints of use of excessive force, inappropriate language or demeanor, discrimination, theft and other police misconduct. 

Most crucially, the ordinance said the board would be granted subpoena power, through the Director of Public Safety. Subpoena power would allow the committee to compel witnesses or police officers to testify, or produce evidence, under threat of legal action. If someone doesn’t comply with a subpoena, they can be legally charged with contempt of court. 

Mayor Dave Armstrong opposed all forms of civilian review, with or without subpoena power, according to a Courier Journal article from the time. Armstrong, who died in 2017, vetoed the 2000 ordinance. But the Board of Aldermen overrode the veto. 

Right away, the River City Fraternal Order of Police sued the city, claiming the subpoena power clause was illegal. 

The representative for the FOP on the lawsuit? David James, who today serves as Metro Council president and an advocate for stronger civilian review. 

James led the FOP at the time. He said in a recent interview that he supported civilian review then and now. 

“The Board of Aldermen didn’t have subpoena power, so they couldn’t grant subpoena power to the board,” James said. “I opposed the illegal parts of the ordinance.” 

He said he supports giving the board subpoena power now — assuming it comes through the legislature as it legally would need to. 

In May 2001, two years after Louisville police killed Rudolph, a judge ruled in favor of the FOP, striking down the ordinance over the subpoena power aspects. 

Judge Tom McDonald wrote that because the Board of Aldermen didn’t have subpoena power, it “didn’t pass constitutional muster” for them to grant that power to a civilian board, according to the Courier Journal. 

That ruling was later struck down by an appeals court that said the lawsuit had no standing.

“There’s no way to know, but you just have to wonder what could have been prevented if we’d managed to get real civilian review then,” said Bill Allison, an alderman who fought for the ordinance. “How much money could we have saved if we’d gotten rid of those rogue cops? And, how many lives, maybe?”

In the end, the board never went into effect. Meanwhile, the city and county merged, meaning all ordinances had to be re-passed by the new Metro Council. By then, though, there was already another police killing of a Black man that sparked protests — and calls for increased civilian oversight of the department. 

Member: Current board ‘is a sham’

In December 2002, just weeks before the new Louisville Metro government was officially created, Louisville police shot and killed James Taylor, 50. Police said he lunged at them with a boxcutter while handcuffed behind his back; they responded by shooting him 11 times. 

Amid the protests, then-Mayor Jerry Abramson responded by promising to create a civilian oversight board. This time, the emergency ordinance passed quickly —  albeit without investigative or subpoena power. 

The 11-member Citizens Commission on Police Accountability is still in effect today, and reviews only “closed police investigations in all police shooting cases and incidents involving loss of life due to police action.” 

Their role is to review the adequacy of internal investigations, not make determinations about the incidents themselves; they are able to make recommendations to the mayor and police chief about policies, training and procedures, but not about action in individual cases. 

At the time, Abramson said he would appoint people who were “not on the extremes” of the issue, and said subpoena power was not necessary because he and the police chief would require officers to cooperate. But nothing in the order was codified to that effect. 

“I fear the commission has extremely limited authority, to the point I think they might get frustrated and the community won’t feel any better about police-community relations,” Jeff Vessels, then executive director of the Kentucky ACLU, told the Courier Journal at the time. 

That has, in many ways, proven to be true. 

“The current board is a sham,” said Ricky Jones, a current member of the board and the chair of the Pan-African Studies department at the University of Louisville. “It was intended to be a toothless tiger. They delivered the most flaccid, sanitized, powerless version of civilian review they could offer.”

Jones’ nomination to the board in 2017 was controversial, as he was seen as anti-police. He said he had hoped to enact real change, but with the lengthy wait times for the board to get access to closed cases, it’s hard for the board to be relevant. 

LMPD has only closed one internal investigation related to a police shooting in two and a half years, KyCIR has found.  

A 2017 Courier Journal investigation found that the board had reviewed more than 70 cases but only five had resulted in recommendations, most recently in 2008. Nearly all of the recommendations were adopted, the investigation found. 

One of the first recommendations the commission voted on, according to a 2003 news report, was requiring officers involved in a fatal shooting to be tested immediately for drugs and alcohol. It did not go into effect. Last week, Metro Council proposed a similar ordinance. 

Working Group Hopes For Strong Oversight

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Once again, Louisville finds itself in the same position — answering protests about police killings with the promise of civilian oversight. 

In some ways, this time is different. The mayor and council president have come out in support of a new and separate board that would offer serious civilian oversight, and they have put together a working group of community members to design the mechanism. 

The Louisville Civilian Review Board work group is made up of city and state officials, police representatives, community leaders and some members of the current civilian review board. They are currently considering different approaches to oversight — creating a position of inspector general or internal auditor, building a body that does their own, concurrent investigations, or taking a post-investigation review approach.

Fischer has specifically called for the board to have subpoena power. James of Metro Council and formerly the FOP, has echoed that call, though he said waiting for the legislature to grant subpoena power may take longer than they would like.

State Sen. Gerald Neal and state Rep. Nima Kulkarni, both Democrats from Louisville, are serving on the working group. The state legislature will not be in session again until January. 

Hollie Hopkins, the legislative services director for the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, wrote in a memo to the work group that neither Metro Council nor the Mayor can just give subpoena power to the board. But the legislature can grant subpoena power to a board or agency, Hopkins found, and has in some select cases. 

Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee has been granted subpoena power, and has been permitted to delegate that authority to the ethics commission as well. The oversight committee recently announced it will investigate Fischer’s handling of the Taylor case, subsequent protests and the fatal shooting of David McAtee by law enforcement. 

The legislature has also granted subpoena power to the Louisville Police Merit Review Board, which reviews appeals of disciplinary action against officers. According to state law, any body conducting a hearing about a police officer accused of wrongdoing “shall subpoena and require the attendance of witnesses” and the production of documentary evidence at the request of the officer. 

But for all this talk about subpoena power, experts say it’s just one very small piece of the puzzle.

“Bodies that have [subpoena power] very rarely use it,” said Liana Perez, director of operations with the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement. “And if it gets challenged, you end up fighting that in court and don’t get much else done.” 

Perez said if an oversight body can get subpoena power, they should, because it can be a useful tool. But if not, leaders can also push to get mandatory cooperation written into the union contract or required by state law. 

The bigger question is how to create a board that meets the community’s needs long-term, she said. She said the most effective civilian oversight boards are also the rarest: those that are created proactively, before there is an issue, rather than in response to a crisis. 

While there is little data that shows these kind of boards actually prevent police incidents, Perez said, they can be very effective at lending credibility and community trust to the subsequent investigation. 

“Take your time,” Perez advised. “Don’t create something just as a measure so you can say you have it. Consider the stakeholders and their needs and hoped-for outcomes, or you may create something that doesn’t work for your community.”

Perez said she would not expect an effort like this to take less than six months. 

But the working group currently helping design Louisville’s new civilian oversight mechanism is planning to move much faster than that. They have said they plan to have a legislative proposal to Metro Council this month.

Contact Eleanor Klibanoff at eleanor@kycir.org 

This Week In Conversation: Police Reform Thursday, Jun 11 2020 

Camden, New Jersey was once considered one of the most violent cities in the country. Now, it’s a case study in police reform. The city completely dissolved its police department in 2012 and put together an entirely new one, focused on community engagement. Crime in Camden dropped by almost half.

As pressure grows in Louisville to make sweeping changes to LMPD, we want to know what drastic police reform actually looks like. So this week, we’re talking to some of the change makers in Camden: Mayor Dana Redd, who was mayor during the police reform and is widely credited with its implementation and success. And Dr. Nyeema Watson, a lifelong Camden resident who’s the associate chancellor for civic engagement at Rutgers University.

Later in the show, we’ll check in with Congressman John Yarmuth, co-sponsor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020. He’ll explain some of the changes called for in the bill, which has won support from civil rights groups.

We’ll kick things off with an update on local protests and calls for police reform, with WFPL’s Amina Elahi and Ryan Van Velzer.

Tune in to 89.3 WFPL at 11 a.m. on Friday, and call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK.


Protesters Say They Were Assaulted Before Arrest, Feared COVID-19 In Jail Tuesday, Jun 9 2020 

They call themselves the J-5. That’s the cell most of them were held in at Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, and it’s where most of them met after being arrested for participating in protests on Sunday, May 31.

The J-5 crew. The group says they were not worried about social distancing at the park because of the time they spent crowded in a cell.Jess Clark | wfpl.org

The J-5 crew. The group says they were not worried about social distancing at the park because of the time they spent crowded in a cell.

“They put us in there to stop our spirits,” 24-year-old protester Markice Armstrong said. But that’s not how it worked out. 

In Louisville’s Central Park this weekend, about a dozen men and women who were arrested and locked up together gathered again.  Though most had just met, they had the ease of longtime friends. Since their release they’ve stayed in touch through text and social media. And some configuration of the J-5 has been out every day to participate in protests against police violence and systemic racism.

“Literally every day we have connected,” Markice said. “This is what they don’t want to see: unity. They don’t want to see us together, standing for the right cause.”

Across the nation and in Louisville, people are protesting against police brutality. Police in Louisville have backed off protesters in the last few days, allowing them to march and chant late into the night. But that was not the case last Sunday, May 31, when police cracked down on protesters with an aggressive response, and the J-5 members were arrested and locked up on charges from breaking curfew to rioting.

They say the night, its violence and dangers, only underscored the reason they were there in the first place.  

‘A feeling of fear that you’ve never had before’

It was just after the 9 p.m. curfew on the fourth consecutive day of protests, and there was still a little light in the sky as a crowd of hundreds of protesters marched down Broadway towards the Highlands. As the group made their way under the I-65 overpass, chanting “no justice no peace,” a caravan of law enforcement blocked the road. 

There was a brief standoff, then a protester threw a water bottle. Police let loose with pepper balls.

Markice Armstrong was there with his younger brother, Christian, 22. He says the police had protesters trapped.

James Freeman

Brothers Markice and Christian Armstrong.

“Their intention was to put us all in jail that night,” Armstrong said. “There was no way of just trying to get us to disperse because if you boxed us in, how would we leave if we’re trapped in a box?”

In the shuffle, Markice and Christian lost sight of each other. 

While Markice fled on foot, Christian hopped a ride with a stranger, another protester who had been following the march down Broadway in his truck. Suddenly, the police cut them off. 

Christian said Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers pulled them from the car and started hitting him with batons, yelling conflicting instructions.

“Then they give me orders to put my hands behind my back, and then as they are doing that, somebody else is telling me to put my hands out,” he said. 

“And there are so many people beating me. I see one of them drop his baton, pick it back up, and then he keeps beating me,” he said.

He was terrified. 

“I was just scared out of this world. It’s like a feeling of fear that you never had before,” he said.

The protester driving the car, 20-year-old Hunter Johnson, told WFPL News that police pulled him from the vehicle too, and threw him on the pavement next to Christian. He said he saw about five LMPD officers beating his new friend. 

In pictures Christian provided to WFPL News, the skin on his legs was broken and bruised in long marks where he said the baton landed. His right forearm was still swollen and red when he met with a reporter six days later. 

Jessie Halladay, a spokeswoman for LMPD, said Christian did not mention any mistreatment or show any sign of injuries when he was processed, but that he is free to file a complaint.

While his younger brother was taking a beating, Markice was getting arrested nearby. He said his arrest was not violent, and he didn’t know what was happening to Christian.

“He could have been the next one on the news,” he said. “We could have been chanting his name out there.”

As young black men, that’s what Markice and Christian Armstrong worry about –that one day they could lose their lives at the hands of police: Like Breonna Taylor and George Floyd did, and like David McAtee would later that night, a few miles down the same street. They were there to protest the police killings of Black people. And in doing so, they said, they experienced violence from police.

Inside J-5

Records show Markice was charged with unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and an unspecified misdemeanor. Christian was charged with first-degree rioting. Though the protests appeared peaceful and non-destructive, arrest documents say Christian was “involved in a riot where property was damaged.”

The Armstrong brothers were taken separately to Louisville Metro Corrections, but they were relieved when they ended up in the same cell — J-5. But they say conditions were terrible, as they were crammed in with at least two dozen other men. 

Officers gave inmates masks, but Markice said that very few guards wore them. Ten inmates and at least 24 staff at the Louisville Metro jail have tested positive for coronavirus.

“With COVID-19 being such a big thing… why no mask? We had no soap to wash our hands,” Markice said. “Everybody was basically sitting on top of each other. At one point we had 30-something people in one cell.”

One of those 30-something people was 21-year-old Jorden Ward. Markice met Ward on Sunday night at the protest, before he was also arrested on charges of unlawful assembly, disorderly conduct and an unspecified misdemeanor. Ward said police dragged him across the pavement before arresting him and taking him to cell J-5. Once there, he said people slept on top of each other, head to toe, and that him and his cellmates were denied water for at least 12 hours. 

“They had one styrofoam cup for all of us,” Ward said. “And who’s going to use a styrofoam cup after so many have used it, especially in the type of situation we’re in.”

Also in the cell that night was Matt Kaufmann, who happens to be the state’s 2020 high school teacher of the year for his work teaching English at the Marion C. Moore School. Kaufmann, who was charged with violating curfew, said he and his cellmates didn’t get to wash their hands and were not given hand sanitizer.

“And so in my mind, I’m thinking this is like biological terrorism,” Kaufmann said. “You’re putting us here at risk to get COVID-19 and then go out into the community to infect the people we love.”

Kaufmann is white, but he’s especially worried about the impact of COVID-19 on Black Louisville residents, like the men he was locked up with. The disease has already been hitting Louisville’s Black residents disproportionately harder than any other group.

While the men huddled in J-5, Ari Tulay, 19, was in another cell with about 20 other women who were arrested. That’s where she met Ashanti O’Neal, 22, who was arrested for violating curfew.

Tulay was arrested for breaking curfew and disorderly conduct. She and O’Neal say the women were huddled next to each other in the cold cell, and the guards wouldn’t provide blankets. Instead, the women said blankets were visible in the hallway, just out of reach.

“They teased us with blankets, they put them in the hallway,” O’Neal said. “There was no reason those blankets should have been in the hallway.”

Jess Clark | wfpl.org

Ari Tulay leading protesters after she was arrested and released from Louisville Metro Corrections.

Some of the protesters were held for three days without a court hearing. Steve Durham, a spokesman for the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections said in an email that arraignment was unexpectedly canceled on Monday, delaying releases. Durham also said they took precautions to protect inmates from coronavirus, but that distancing was difficult.

“In the specific period you’re asking about, 87 people were processed into custody in a very short time,” a statement from Durham reads.

“You can’t block that much sunlight in a dark place’

A few days after they got out of jail, the group reunited at Central Park. They’re seeing a lot of each other these days, and have been back at protests all week along with the people they met in jail Sunday night. That includes James Robinson, a student at the University of Louisville who was held for three days at LMDC. He said their experience only made them more committed.

“They put us in there, they let us think and fester on things and really have time to speak on it,” Robison said. “Y’all should be afraid of our minds now, and what we are capable of doing in the right way.”

Markice Armstrong said the police who put them in jail may have thought they were discouraging protests. But it didn’t work out that way.

“You can’t block that much sunlight in a dark place,” Markice said. “We all knew what we were fighting for, so that just brought us even more together…You created a bad situation for yourself because we’re not going to stop fighting until we get justice.”

Rain Doesn’t Slow Caravan On 8th Day Of Protests Friday, Jun 5 2020 

Protesters hit the streets for the eighth straight day in Louisville on Thursday in response to the shooting deaths of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee in incidents involving Louisville Metro Police Department officers.

Rain started early in the evening, with the persistent downpour lasting for the duration of the protest. That wasn’t enough to stop a large caravan of people and vehicles from making its way through the city, touching nearly every corner of downtown from Broadway to the Ohio River.


The chants and honking horns made the scene as loud as it was wet. Protester James Johnson described the atmosphere as a “good vibe,” praising the community for coming together peacefully to make their voices heard.

“Everybody came out,” he said. “We’re drenched. We’re soaking wet. There’s white people, there’s black people, there’s Mexicans. There’s all types of races out here. We’re together, we’re one.”

While the protest seemed almost festive, at the end of the day, it was about seeking justice for Taylor and McAtee. Ashley Brown and her sister, Jessica Henderson, each brought their children, ranging from ages 5 to 16, to the event.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Brown said it’s important for young people of color to be aware of the potential dangers they’ll face in life. But she also wanted them to know that they can make a difference, and for them to look back in 20 years and remember that she tried to be a part of that change.

“She didn’t just sit there and let this happen to me,” she said, imagining herself as her children in the future. “She didn’t tell me life is unfair and just sat there and let it be unfair. She did this and she did that, and she did her best. And that’s what I’m out here doing. I’m doing my best.”

Police presence was at a minimum throughout the evening. After making their way to the Big Four Bridge, protesters called it a night at around 10:30 p.m.

A separate group gathered in the Highlands until midnight to commemorate what would have been Taylor’s 27th birthday on Friday. Protests are expected to continue through the weekend.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org


Volunteers, Including Protesters, Clean Up Downtown Louisville Sunday, May 31 2020 

Volunteer Lonnie McCray helped clean up downtown Louisville after protests left widespread damage to businesses.Downtown Louisville has been transformed by three nights of protests over the police killing of Breonna Taylor. Protesters have caused thousands of dollars in damage to businesses, breaking windows and tagging walls with spray paint. Louisville Metro employees and many volunteers were working to clean up first thing Sunday morning.

“I love my city,” volunteer Lonnie McCray said as she used paint remover and a rag to scrub graffiti from a transformer at Jefferson and Second streets. McCray was among a couple dozen volunteers organized by the Louisville Downtown Partnership.

Many were returning downtown after having participated in the protests themselves.

McCray, who is Black, wanted to participate in the protests, but she couldn’t risk getting coronavirus, since her mother is immune-compromised. Instead she dropped off supplies for protesters, and showed up here to clean up Sunday.

McCray said she’s had personal experience with Louisville Metro Police Department growing up in Louisville.

“I want you to have a realization of what I look like, and who I am,” she said.

She pulls down her face-mask to show two gold front teeth.

“Because that determines what happens when I get pulled over. Not how I sound. Not how intelligent I may be, not where I work, or what I do for a living, but what I look like.”

McCray said something has to be done about what she called systemic racism in policing.

“I pray that there’s change. At this point when you hit rock bottom, you can’t do anything but change. And this is rock bottom,” she said, and moved on to find more graffiti to scrub away.

Other volunteers were less sympathetic to the protesters.

“There’s a lot of injustices out there, but the police, they’ve got a really hard job,” volunteer Marcus Grady said. “None of this is OK. Destruction is not helping anybody.”

Grady, who is in the ROTC program at the University of Louisville, said he came downtown Friday to observe the protests, but not to participate.

“I was just really upset by what I saw — all the businesses being destroyed after coronavirus just crippled them, and this is the death blow to many people,” he said.

Protests over police brutality began Thursday evening, and continued through the weekend. After a chaotic evening Friday night, Mayor Greg Fischer issued a 9 p.m. curfew and called in the National Guard for help in enforcing it. Officials said there was not widespread vandalism or looting on Saturday evening; about 40 people were arrested.

As Curfew Looms, Police Enforcement Has Already Begun Downtown Saturday, May 30 2020 

With a half hour to go before the new curfew hits, law enforcement was already working to disperse crowds on either side of the Sixth and Jefferson intersection that’s been the focus of protests in the last few days.

A USA Today reporter filmed law enforcement dumping out water and milk jugs left out for protesters, and reporters on the scene said flash bangs, green smoke and tear gas were already being deployed before 8:30 p.m. Mounted officers were patrolling near West Liberty Street behind a line of officers in riot gear.

Jared Bennett | wfpl.org

Sixth and Liberty before curfew

As protesters chant, “no justice, no peace,” the officers are reading pepper balls and equipped with zip ties.

Near the jail and Hall of Justice. where protesters last night broke windows and lit a small fire, troopers suited up with gas masks.

A separate protest has been ongoing for more than an hour in the Highlands. There, police are holding a line but haven’t deployed any tear gas or other methods.

With five minutes to go before curfew, KSP and LMPD officers began firing tear gas past retreating protesters.

This story will be updated.

Pandemic Leads To Boom In Booze Sales  Sunday, May 17 2020 

At Old Town Liquors on Bardstown Road, people come by car, by truck and by foot. They line up alongside the building and place their order through a window in the bizarre fashion that now seems a new normal — smiles often covered by masks, hands sometimes wrapped in gloves.

The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated many businesses across the state. Restaurants and bars and retail stores have been effectively shut down since early March, when the disease began to spread. To date, more than 7,880 people have been infected and 334 people have died in Kentucky.

One industry, however, has seemed to not only weather the downturn, but has thrived — the alcohol business.

State tax revenue data released earlier this month show that beer, wine and spirits sales in April brought in more than $13.5 million in revenue, a 12 percent spike compared with the same time last year.

From the drive-thru window at Old Town Liquors, Heather Drury has a frontrow view of the boom. She said more people are buying in bulk than before the pandemic, and they’re also branching out and trying new things.

“Cocktails,” she said. “I think that is a new hobby people have picked up.”

Margaritas remain a popular choice for many, she said. And some people are forgoing the pre-fab mixes for more artisanal recipes that call for fresh squeezed juice and liqueurs. 

The experience of shopping for booze, though, has changed, she said. At places like Old Town, it was once common for people to saunter the aisles, browsing the bottles. These days, that’s not happening. So, Drury said staff will do the browsing for them, in a way. 

Kristen Becht didn’t need to browse when she walked to the window Saturday afternoon. She got a pack of Whiteclaw and some sake and took off across the parking lot holding her goods in a brown paper bag.

She works in marketing and during the pandemic has been able to work from home. When she’s not working, she said her days are pretty easy going. Becht and her boyfriend watch movies, chat online with friends, and browse the web.

And they drink.

“Definitely,” she said.

At first, when the pandemic had just begun, Becht said they were drinking more than they are now.

“When it first started and both us didn’t know how to cope with not being able to go out, not being able to socialize, I’d say we were drinking,” she said.

Becht said she misses the simple pleasures of being among other people, and she’s looking forward to doing it again. But, she doesn’t know when that will be. Restaurants are slated to open in limited capacities next week, and bars will be able to open in early July. Becht, though, said she won’t be rushing to her favorite haunts just yet.

“I’m going to play it cool,” she said. “We’ll see how it plays out, let some other people be the guinea pigs.”

So, for now, she just spends her time at home with her partner. They make dinner, turn on a movie, and enjoy a drink.

City officials have acknowledged that people are consuming more alcohol than before the pandemic. Mayor Greg Fischer has even encouraged residents to “pop a cold one” if they so choose. But, Sarah Moyer, the city’s top health official, warns that turning to alcohol is not the best way to cope with the stress of the pandemic. In fact, alcohol can make people more vulnerable to COVID-19, she said.

“While drinking alcohol occasionally is okay for most people, it’s really important that we keep an eye on how much you’re drinking,” Moyer said.

And if you’re concerned about your own drinking, reach out for help. Support groups are still available during the pandemic. Here are some resources:

Greater Louisville Intergroup of Alcoholics Anonymous – 502-582-1849

Louisville Area of Narcotics Anonymous – 569-1769

The Healing Place – Men’s campus: 502-583-0369 – Women’s campus: 502-568-6680

Centerstone – (502) 589-1100


This Week In Conversation: How Will Coronavirus Hit State Coffers? Monday, Apr 6 2020 

As Kentucky responds to the coronavirus pandemic, the state is expecting to receive less tax revenue as the result of shuttered businesses and a dropoff in consumer spending.

Thanks to the federal CARES Act, Kentucky will receive $1.6 billion to help prop up the state’s ailing coffers, but the state will inevitably see a drop in income and sales taxes as more residents lose their jobs and save their money.

Erica Peterson | wfpl.org

In Conversation

State legislators have tried to adjust to the financial uncertainty by passing a one-year budget, allowing them to come back next year and pass a new spending plan.

For this special episode hosted by Kentucky Public Radio Capitol Bureau Chief Ryland Barton, In Conversation discusses how the decline in revenue could affect state services and residents who depend on them.

Tune in at noon Wednesday on 89.3 WFPL, or follow along with our live tweets at @WFPLnews. Call with your questions or comments at 502-814-TALK or tweet us with the hashtag #WFPLconversation. We’re also on Facebook.

Follow our ongoing coverage about the coronavirus through our live blog here.


‘That’s Better Than Not Seeing You At All.’ A Family Stays Connected Through Nursing Home Window Tuesday, Mar 31 2020 

Before nursing homes restricted visitors, Julie Sullivan used to go sit at lunch with her mother and her friends at the Westport Place Health Campus, and push all the tables together “so we could have a big party.”

Since three weeks ago, when nursing homes had to start restricting visitors, she takes her place instead each day outside her mother’s window. 

Shirley Sullivan moved into Westport Place the week before the Kentucky Derby last year. She turned 90 in September, and Julie and her siblings, Tom, Katie and Maureen, were frequent visitors. But they haven’t been inside since the order. Instead they visit every day from outside, standing between the bird feeders they installed there. Julie says it can be like watching a mini-gladiator match, and Shirley can watch the birds just like she used to, before Westport.

On a sunny afternoon last week, Julie took a recorder to capture her visit with her mother, since Westport wouldn’t allow media on the property. 

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

The two can see each other, but they can’t really hear through the glass. They stand on opposite sides talking on their cell phones. 

“How are you feeling today?” Julie says.

I didn’t hear you,” Shirley responds.

“How are you feeling today?” she shouts, louder.

Shirley said she feels better since she had a good meal: a BLT sandwich, chicken noodle soup and some blueberry brackle.

Jule asks her how it feels to be isolated in the nursing home with her children on the outside.

“It’s just hard, you know, when you want to be closer and you can’t,” Shirley said.

She concedes the window visits are better than nothing.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services passed down guidelines to nursing homes to limit group activities like eating in a dining hall. Nursing homes have also restricted activities like bingo. The residents at Westport can play in small groups to avoid residents coming too close to each other. Julie says her mother has always been a social butterfly, so missing out on time with her friends has been the hardest restriction to get used to.

“It’s kind of a pain in the neck, you like to see your friends and talk to them,” Shirley said. “But if it’s going to save anybody getting sick then it’s worth it.”

Every visit, Julie takes a picture of her mom smiling through the window to post on Facebook. The posts have developed a bit of a fan club over the past few weeks. On the day of this visit, Shirley is wearing a bright shirt with pink flowers on it, perfect for one of the first nice days of spring. She tells her daughter about bingo, which had only three or four participants but she still somehow didn’t win.

Courtesy of Julie Sullivan.

Shirley Sullivan.

Even though the nursing home offered to set up video chats for family members, Julie says the in-person visits make her feel better because she can see the care the facility is providing her mother. 

“Actually being able to look in the window and know that I’m just a few feet away from her, even though there’s glass in between us, is better,” Julie told me after her visit. 

Julie said she planned to come back later that night, after the Governor’s press conference, to give her mom and update through the glass.

On Monday, Governor Beshear announced two positive cases of the coronavirus connected to a staff member and a resident at a nursing home in Campbell County.

Complaints Allege Restaurants Open, Workplaces Crowded Despite Orders Monday, Mar 23 2020 

As the COVID-19 disease continues to spread, Louisville Metro officials are receiving a deluge of complaints from residents about businesses not heeding calls to shut down or scale back services.

Since Gov. Andy Beshear declared a state of emergency earlier this month, 114 complaints related to the coronavirus have been reported to city health officials as of noon Monday, according to online records. 

The complaints range from restaurants defying the governor’s order to close, factories and warehouses neglecting to provide safe conditions for workers, and other services falling short on social distancing.

Nearly 70 of the complaints came in Monday morning — a day after Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer encouraged residents to report businesses that fail to take necessary precautions to avoid spreading the contagious virus. 

Many of the complaints mirror national worries about the spreading pandemic: supply shortages for health workers, the lack of personal space in daily life.

One complainant alleged staff at a local hospital were not being allowed to work from home, despite being told they are non-essential. Several people complained of cramped bus rides or packed factory floors.

One person reported a gas station manager who continued to report to work and serve customers after he said his wife tested positive for the virus. Another complained of an adult bookstore staying open despite the order for all non-essential retail to close in-store sales. One complainant expressed concern about touchpad pay stalls at area gas stations, and the risk of germ sharing.

Several complaints allege employers were requiring non-essential personnel to report and work in tight quarters. A few complained of close working conditions at GE Appliance Park, on city road crews or at packing warehouses and call centers. At the JBS Swift slaughterhouse, an employee complained about working “elbow to elbow,” even as colleagues “left with fevers.”

A call to a city spokesperson wasn’t immediately returned Monday. A spokesperson for GE said the company will cease manufacturing options for one week beginning Monday.

A spokesperson for JBS said the company has taken several measures to protect the health of workers, including taking employees’ temperatures before they enter a plant.

We have had no positive cases of COVID-19 and no one at JBS Louisville is forced to work,” he said.

Many complaints said restaurants continue to offer dine-in services. One complained of a restaurant continuing to operate a self-serve salsa bar amid the spreading pandemic.

“I don’t think with Coronavirus that they should be doing this,” the complainant stated.

At the Cat Fish Haven Lake Bar and Grill, one complainant alleged last week that staff was continuing to serve people inside. But the owner, Curtis Ables, disagreed.

He said he got a call from the health department, and he denied the accusations. Then, officers with the city’s Alcoholic Beverage Control came to his restaurant and pay lake on Whipple Road in southwest Jefferson County.

“Then, I just shut down totally,” Ables said.

He said the voluntary shut down will hurt. Spring time is the start of the money season for Ables, who thinks the orders from the governor are a bit tough. He’s still letting people fish in the pay lake.

The sharp increase in complaints shows many residents are taking serious warnings from health and government officials that the pandemic is serious and that social distancing and isolation are imperative. 

But the data also raises questions about the ability of city inspectors to reign in rogue businesses.

The Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness is tasked with investigating the complaints. A spokesman for that agency said he is “up to my neck in alligators right now on COVID-19” and hadn’t yet had time to review the files, all of which flooded into the agency within the past week.  

All but eight of the files maintained in the city’s online database were closed by inspectors the same day they were reported, often with a note that the issue had been referred to another agency, like OSHA, the state’s Office of Inspector General or another agency related to the industry of the business. The online records provide little detail about any inspection by city crews, or if any penalties were levied against business owners.

Nearly all of the complaints were forwarded to other agencies for follow-ups or investigation. A handful were marked duly noted. 

The identities of complainants are not required, and not made public if they’re provided.

Complaints can be submitted online through the city’s 311 service here – https://louisvilleky.gov/government/metro311. The phone number is 502-574-5000, or 311.

The agency is on twitter @LouMetro311.

This story was updated to include a response from GE.

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