After Civil Unrest Like May Protests, LMPD Must Analyze Its Response. It Hasn’t Tuesday, Jul 28 2020 

Ryan Van Velzer

Police fire tear gas and pepper balls on protesters after seven were shot in downtown Louisville on May 28,2020.

The final days of May were a whirlwind of protests, violence and vandalism in downtown Louisville that upended the city and set the tone for months of civil unrest that continue today.

In the span of four days, protesters demanding accountability for the police killing of Breonna Taylor were doused with tear gas, pelted with pepper balls and arrested en masse by Louisville Metro Police. Seven people were shot in a still-unsolved incident in the middle of the protest, just steps away from Metro Hall. The National Guard was called in to help LMPD keep the peace and ended up fatally shooting David McAtee.

By June, the city’s central business district was busted up and boarded. The police chief was fired. And downtown was a perennial protest zone.

LMPD’s policies require an analysis of the agency’s response as soon as possible once “the disturbance has been brought under control” following events of civil unrest, like those that transpired in late May. Such a review, known as an after-action report, is considered a key element for critiquing tactics, and can help improve strategies, develop efficiencies and build public trust. 

But LMPD hasn’t done any “after-action reports” related to the protests, according to a department spokesperson. And as time passes, memories of these tumultuous days will fade, and lead to the perception that accountability is not a priority, according to policing experts and local leaders. 

According to LMPD policy, the reports should focus on operational concerns, problem areas and the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire response. The reports should recommend methods for improving departmental operations, and policies to prepare for future incidents. 

Without them, officers may feel like they have a license “to do what you want, because there’s not going to be a report,” said Samuel Walker, an emeritus professor at University of Nebraska-Omaha’s school of criminology and criminal justice. 

For police, it’s necessary to create a comprehensive record of how the agency responds to critical incidents, such as a weekend of violent clashes with protesters: waiting too long to review the weekend, or analyze it, could jeopardize the agency’s ability to accurately document what occurred, and determine if policies were followed and assess whether crowd-control strategies were effective, he said.

“This is particularly important when you have injuries or death,” Walker said. 

State Rep. Attica Scott attended the protests on Friday, May 29. It was the second night of protests, and hundreds gathered in downtown Louisville to protest the police killing of Taylor, a Black woman who was killed by LMPD officers executing a search warrant at her home. 

Scott, a Democrat whose district includes downtown, St. Mathews and west Louisville, said the events were peaceful until police began blanketing the crowd with tear gas.  

“It was chaos,” she said. “The police turned it into chaos.”

Now, nearly two months later, Scott said it “makes no sense” that police have yet to analyze their response to the protests during those days in late May.

“To me, it says that LMPD has no interest in learning from their mistakes, that they have absolutely no interest in acknowledging where they have gone wrong and they have absolutely no interest in making sure that they don’t make the same mistakes moving forward,” she said. “That’s why you analyze your actions, so you can learn from them.”

An LMPD spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for an interview about the lack of after-action reports. It’s unclear if any after-action reports have been completed for later protests following those days in May. But emails related to a records request from the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting shed some light on the agency’s records related to the protests.

KyCIR asked LMPD on June 1 for the after-action report for the preceding weekend’s protests. The agency responded to the open records request last week, stating they had no such reports.

KyCIR also requested the agency’s Incident Action Plan for protest events in late May, which would detail the agency’s strategies, goals and tactics for their response. LMPD spokesperson Alicia Smiley said in denying that request that releasing such information would “directly affect the vulnerability and LMPD’s counterterrorism/antiterrorism protective measures and plans” and put officers at risk of violence.

Smiley also said the LMPD has “intercepted multiple plans between violent demonstrators that includes ambushing law enforcement officers at staging locations and known response routes.”

“Violent demonstrators” have accessed police radio communications “so they may evade and attack officers as they move in real time,” Smiley said in an email to KyCIR.

Police have not reported that sort of attack by protesters during the civil unrest, though police have said demonstrators threw water bottles filled with urine and at one point police claimed to have seized unknown flammable substances. Protesters have also vandalized government buildings. Numerous protesters, however, have claimed they were assaulted by police without provocation during their arrests.

After-action reviews should not be overlooked by agency leadership because they help improve public trust — and can lead to “smarter thinking and therefore more effective execution,” according to a report published this year by the National Police Foundation, a non-partisan organization based in Arlington, Va. that aims to improve policing through innovation and science.

The report said that after-action reports should be conducted immediately after an incident and shared with responding agencies to communicate  “promising practices, lessons learned, and areas for shared improvement.”

Presently, police departments across the country are facing widespread and continued protests, as well as the fallout that stems from the global COVID-19 pandemic, which together create a unique set of challenges that could impede their ability to conduct in-depth, comprehensive reviews of critical incidents, said Keith Taylor, an adjunct assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

Taylor, a former assistant commissioner with the New York City Police Department, said after-action reports are certainly valuable, and necessary. But he said it’s not surprising if they fall to the wayside as agencies deal with the stresses of policing during a pandemic and the workload that comes with ongoing protests.

“It’s quite a chaotic time,” he said.

Additionally, Taylor said current ongoing investigations into incidents that occurred during the first weekend of protests in Louisville could impede the completion of after-action reports. 

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Kentucky State Police are conducting independent investigations of the June 1 fatal law enforcement shooting of McAtee.

Not completing the reports, however, could also hamper the ability to investigate and review the totality of the police department’s response to protests, said Louisville Metro Council President David James. He pointed to an investigation underway by the Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Audit Committee that will focus on the killings of Breonna Taylor and McAtee, as well as the related protests.

The reports, he said, would help council members get a clear understanding of what took place during the first week of unrest, James said.

“Those documents would be important,” he said. “You need documentation to see what did or did not happen.

James, a Democrat and former LMPD narcotics detective, said after-action reports are commonplace and are routinely completed by LMPD. He was surprised to hear no such report had been completed to analyze the events in late May.

“It doesn’t seem logical,” he said. 

Walker, the Nebraska policing expert, pointed out the scope of the protests and the magnitude of their intensity — there were shootings, mass arrests, claims of police brutality, and widespread vandalism that went largely unchecked for hours as buildings were damaged and property destroyed. Those incidents make it all the more important to complete the required analysis of the events and the agency’s response, he said, a task he considers routine police work. 

And even though protests and civil unrest in Louisville have been constant since late May, there have been moments of relative calm.

“It’s in that quiet period that you do your report,” Walker said. 

Scott, the state representative, said police should conduct thorough analysis of every day they are confronting protesters. The final days of May, she said, are especially in need of review due to the magnitude of the events, damage and violence.

Scott saw protests in St. Matthews, but the police response came with no tear gas, no pepper balls, and no arrests. In west Louisville, there were no protests, but the National Guard responded and killed McAtee, a Black man.

“All of that has to be addressed,” she said. “Because they cannot deny there was disparity in the way they treated people based on place and based on race.”

Correction: Samuel Walker is professor emeritus at University of Nebraska-Omaha. A previous version of this story named the wrong campus.

The post After Civil Unrest Like May Protests, LMPD Must Analyze Its Response. It Hasn’t appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Search Warrants Under Scrutiny As Police Killings Spark Reforms Wednesday, Jul 8 2020 

The police officers who killed Breonna Taylor came with a search warrant that allowed detectives to raid the 26-year-old’s home without first knocking.

Such warrants — called no-knocks — instantly proved controversial once Taylor’s death was thrust into the national spotlight. The Louisville Metro Council was swift to ban the use of no-knock warrants last month in a unanimous vote.

In practice, no-knock warrants like those solicited for the Taylor search are rare: of more than 6,000 search warrants served by LMPD since 2018, fewer than 1% were no-knocks, according to LMPD data. 

And now, the call to reform the process by which police seek and obtain search warrants from Louisville judges is broadening, sparking introspection and infighting at the courthouse.

Some attorneys, civil liberty advocates and criminal justice experts say the search warrant process lacks transparency, oversight and fairness. But many Louisville judges defend the system, saying a judge’s oath alone binds them to act with integrity and the push for reform is little more than window dressing.

Ted Shouse, a Louisville-based defense attorney, pushed for reform to the broader system of search warrants in an op-ed in the Courier Journal last month. Shouse argued the current system is unnecessarily secret, and gives police an upper hand not afforded to criminal defendants.

Police can call, email or meet-in person with a judge to get a warrant. Officers can take their pick between 30 judges with jurisdiction in the county to present their case for a search warrant. And anecdotally, judges, lawyers and researchers have concluded that officer’s warrant requests are rarely refused — for those that are, there’s no record to show for it and no system to track how or if a request is modified or just presented to another judge for approval.

“All I’m advocating is transparency,” Shouse said in an interview with KyCIR last week. “Why would a judge not want transparency?”

Chief Jefferson Circuit Judge Angela McCormick Bisig said judges are “gatekeepers” and “neutral listeners.” They may be cordial with officers, but they’re not casual and they don’t play favorites, she said.

“We take this responsibility very seriously,” she said. “We try to be transparent.” 

Police Generally Pick Judge

In the aftermath of Taylor’s death, the Louisville Metro Police Department amended its search warrant policy to require officers get approval from their commander before applying for a search warrant. Local court rules and police policy advise police officers to contact court clerks during business hours and be assigned a judge, but that doesn’t always happen, said Chief Jefferson District Court Judge Anne Haynie.

Jefferson District Court

Local District Court rules.

Occasionally, officers will catch a judge in the courtroom or in their office and present their case for a search warrant, she said. Some search warrant requests are processed electronically, via email, said Haynie. After hours, an on-call District Court judge is available 24 hours a day to respond to requests, Haynie said. But officers are not required to contact the on-call judge.

“It’s really just whoever is available,” she said. 

Once a judge receives the affidavit, the review can be quick, said Leland Hulbert, a defense attorney and former prosecutor.

“Typically, what I see is judges are asked in the middle of the day or middle of the night to approve a warrant and they don’t have a lot of time to digest,” Hulbert said. “They are usually signed the day they are presented.”

But now, amid the fallout and outrage from Taylor’s death and the circumstances that led to it, Hulbert believes judges will be more scrupulous in their review of search warrant applications.  More requirements like the creation of an independent warrant review panel or mandating that judges explain, in writing, why they are approving a warrant could further strengthen the process, Hulbert said.

“Just stating that in writing could bring more transparency,” he said.

Bisig said judges can only consider the information included in the affidavit when making their decision to approve or reject an officer’s request and the conversation between judge and officer has no basis in the ultimate decision.

The affidavits are included in court files, and can be subject to review by judges and defense attorneys once a case begins crawling through the criminal justice system.

“We’re not trying to hide anything here,” Bisig said. 

Still, Shouse, and others, say documenting that interaction is a critical step towards transparency.

“These conversations, however brief they may be, are critical to the criminal justice system,” he said. “Why not have that brief exchange between a police officer or a judge available? What’s the argument against it?

“The system, as it exists now, affords zero transparency,” Shouse said.

Getting details about search warrant requests can be cumbersome, if not impossible. The courts don’t maintain a database of search warrant requests, and in turn, there’s no record of search warrants requests that are rejected by a judge.

Shouse thinks judges should be randomly assigned to officers who come seeking a search warrant. Judges are randomly assigned in criminal and civil cases, which are heavily documented from beginning to end. But when it comes to search warrants — which can be an intrusive tipping off point for allegations that pull people into the criminal justice system — no such requirements exist.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Charles L. Cunningham penned a rebuke of Shouse’s call for reform in his own op-ed in the Courier Journal last week. In it, Cunningham dismissed the notion that police “cherry pick” judges when they need a search warrant approved.

“Judges are not anyone’s rubber stamp,” he said.

He said assigning a judge at random to approve a warrant would be cumbersome, and clog the schedules of both police and judges.

“Judges don’t just sit around waiting for the police to show up,” Cunningham said. “We often can’t drop what we are doing to hear a warrant application. The police have to hunt for a judge who will make the time to hear them. Some judges dodge this task; some make the time.”

But Cunningham is open to some reform. In an interview with KyCIR last week, he said a welcome improvement in the search warrant process would be to develop a tracking system to monitor which warrant requests are denied, and what becomes of them.

Cunningham said it’s impossible to know if an officer who failed to get approval goes on to gather more evidence, or simply walks down the hall to another judge. Keeping a record of when a judge rejects a warrant could quell any concern that law enforcement effectively go judge shopping when they need a warrant, he said.

“Would it stop them from shopping around? It would definitely stop it,” he said.  “Would that somehow fix a problem? That’s a much tougher question.”

A spokesperson for LMPD did not respond to a request for comment for this report.

Judges Say New Process Would Be Prohibitive

Haynie says a randomized process that only allows one judge at a time to issue warrants could be a barrier for law enforcement and a burden to the criminal justice system.

Jefferson District Court

Chief Jefferson District Judge Anne Haynie

The 17 judges presiding over district court deal with crowded dockets of misdemeanor crimes and traffic offenses, as well as weddings, arrest warrants, emergency protective orders and more, she said.

“You just don’t know how busy people are during the day and you don’t want warrants just sitting there,” Haynie said. “I could not fathom being on a heavy docket and having to break that docket and spend time on a warrant.”

Limiting the pool of judges available would be “just window dressing,” according to Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin. He said each judge took an oath to uphold the rule of law, and that requires scrutinizing warrants equally and fairly, without consideration to their own beliefs or bias.

“Constitutionally, every judge is the same,” he said. “If there is a problem with a judge, this is not how you solve it.”

Not Everyone Agrees

Jefferson District Court Judge Julie Kaelin doesn’t think the oath alone is enough to ensure public trust or accountability.

“I don’t think that we are so special that we are infallible,” she said.

Kaelin supports documenting interactions between judges and the police that come seeking a warrant. The mere perception of judge shopping is concern enough to welcome reforms to boost transparency and oversight, she said.

“There is no reason to not make it a more transparent process,” Kaelin said. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to.”

Police can execute a search warrant at any time of day. They can bust down doors, seize property, and make arrests. The raw intrusiveness of government prying into the private lives of people is so great the U.S. Constitution provides protections against it — and yet, police searches are key elements of evidence gathering, said Kate Miller, advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky. But obtaining and executing search warrants shouldn’t come at the cost of people’s civil rights.

“It’s such an important right to be able to be secure in your own home,” Miller said.

Even as calls to ban no-knock warrants echo nationwide, experts say wider reform would be a struggle. Search warrants are an ingrained aspect of policing, and their immediacy can be crucial to securing evidence and catching suspects.

Getting buy-in for change on how police obtain warrants would be difficult, says Damon Preston, the chief public defender for Kentucky’s Department of Public Advocacy. But he thinks some reform is necessary, and one way to hold police and judges accountable would be to require more transparency.

“At the least they should provide data, reports,” he said.

Nationally, little data exists detailing the scope or use of search warrants, said Trevor Burns, a research fellow at The Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank based in Washington D.C. This is partly by design, he said: Prosecutors and police are not always keen on disclosing the strategies of their crime fighting.

But the process to get a warrant in Louisville is not unusual, Burns said. Since police are only required to prove probable cause, a low evidentiary bar, they typically present true, simple facts to a judge, Burns said. The question lies with how much scrutiny a judge is willing to give to a warrant request, he said. 

Oftentimes, it’s not much, Burns said.

“Judges just trust police,” he said. “It’s hard to think of a situation where the judge will give hard scrutiny to a warrant.”

Contact Jacob Ryan at jryan@kycir.org.

The post Search Warrants Under Scrutiny As Police Killings Spark Reforms appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Why Black Women Like Breonna Taylor Still Need ‘Say Her Name’ Movement Monday, Jul 6 2020 

Kate Howard

George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are depicted in this mural by Damon Thompson.

In the days after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by police, she was labeled as a “suspect” by Louisville Metro Police and the media. The case drew some attention — but it didn’t really take off until more than two months later, after the videotaped police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis outraged the nation.

When Black Lives Matter protests spread across the nation, it was Floyd’s name the protesters chanted.

Not in Louisville.

“Say her name!” they chanted over and over. “Breonna Taylor!”

Floyd’s death helped to spearhead months of protests against police violence, and in its wake, new attention was paid to Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman and ER tech killed by LMPD officers on March 13. Soon, with the help of #SayHerName social media hashtags, Taylor’s name and story were at the forefront nationwide alongside Floyd’s. 

Alicia Keys, Jada Pinkett Smith, Tracee Ellis Ross and Queen Latifah have participated in a PSA campaign by the justice group Until Freedom asking the viewer one poignant question: Do you know what happened to Breonna Taylor?

By what would have been Breonna’s 27th birthday, protesters from Louisville to Brooklyn and around the world were saying her name. Even Beyoncé penned a letter to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, urging him to charge the police officers who killed her.

But Taylor’s story highlights an issue activists, advocates and academics have studied and reckoned with for years: Why are Black women’s stories of police brutality not highlighted with the same intensity of Black men? Why does it seem harder for stories like Taylor’s to catch fire?

‘She’s Black and she’s a woman’

On March 13 in the early morning, Taylor and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, were home sleeping when LMPD officers executed a no-knock warrant in her apartment. Startled by the entry and mistaking them as intruders, Walker shot at police, who shot back and hit Taylor eight times. LMPD claims they entered on the belief that they’d find evidence related to a drug investigation because an ex-boyfriend, the target of their investigation, had received a package there. They did not find any drugs.

In an interview with NPR, Taylor’s family described her as a loving person who became an emergency medical technician in order to care for others. The family told NPR it lifts them up to know her story is being heard, and they’re “grateful that her name is where she should be.”

But that took time. Louisville author, blogger, and activist Hannah Drake said she was sharing information about Taylor’s case on her Twitter feed for a while. But it wasn’t getting traction.

“Breonna just had two things working against her: She’s Black and she’s a woman,” said Drake. 

But after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd and his death gained national attention, Taylor’s name and story followed. 

“If I asked you right now to tell me four Black men that were killed by the police, you may know four, probably more than four,” she said. “But now if I tell you to tell me four Black women that have been killed by the police, you’re going to say, ‘Sandra Bland’ at best.”

Drake believes that’s because of a hierarchy of importance in America: “white men, white women, Black men, and then at the bottom, Black women.” 

However on social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram the hashtag #SayHerName and #SayHerNameBreonnaTaylor has helped to add circulation of Taylor’s name and story. 

The #SayHerName campaign was launched In 2014 by the African American Policy Forum and Center for Intersectionality and Social Policy Studies to uplift the stories of Black women who have experienced police violence.

While stories of male Black victims like Eric Garner or Michael Brown have received mass attention, the campaign sought to bring the same attention to Black women like Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Atatiana Jefferson, and now, Breonna Taylor.

“I always explained to people this isn’t a competition between Black men and Black women who suffered the most,” said Drake. “This is a campaign for awareness because often our stories are overlooked.”

The Norm 

No comprehensive national database exists that captures rates of police use of force according to a 2018 report by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights titled, “Police Use of Force: An Examination of Modern Policing Practices.”

The report states that while Congress has required the Department of Justice to release annual reports on police force local police departments aren’t required to submit their data to the DOJ. 

“The majority of the more than 17,000 police departments in the United States only selectively report data and some do not report at all,” according to the report. 

The report does conclude high rates of use of force nationally, and “increased likelihood of police use of force against people of color, people with disabilities, LGBT people, people with mental health concerns, people with low incomes, and those at the intersections of these groups.”

In 2019, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced that it would be launching the National Use of Force Data Collection. The database allows police departments to voluntarily submit data about use of force for a nationwide perspective. According to a Washington Post article only 40% of police departments submitted data. 

Since it’s not federally mandated, the work of tracking police brutality often falls on nonprofit organizations, activists and the media. 

University of Florida professor and critical race theorist Michelle S. Jacobs has been researching the ways in which Black women are viewed in criminal law and American society as early as slavery and onward. 

Her work uses past literature, political discussions, judicial opinions, and more to examine how Black women are viewed. She identified three consistent tropes and stereotypes; that Black women are “not women” or “womanly.” That Black women are liars, and — perhaps most relevant to the Say Her Name movement — that Black women are not really victims. 

“These stereotypes really add the very foundation of how our nation has developed its understanding of how Black women exist. And from the beginning, we have never existed in their minds as people who are worthy of protection of the law or human beings who are entitled to dignity,” said Jacobs. 

Ava Thompson Greenwell, a video journalism professor at Northwestern University, believes one reason that Black women’s stories are not told as often in the mainstream media is due to largely white newsroom leadership. Black press tends to be run by Black men, she said.

”People tend to cover people who are like them,” Greenwell said. “Black women don’t fit into any of those categories; they’re not white men, they’re not Black men, and they’re not white women, so they’ve really been disregarded historically.” 

Taylor’s case faces another disadvantage: the officers who executed the search warrant at her home weren’t wearing body cameras, and so there’s no footage of the moments leading up to her death. Meanwhile, the video of the police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck has been viewed millions of times, and led to widespread condemnation even from law enforcement. 

In Taylor’s case, the police’s story and witnesses’ stories didn’t match on several details, such as whether officers knocked and announced themselves before entering and whether her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, knew they were police before he fired a shot in self-defense.

“It’s almost like if it wasn’t on video these days, it didn’t quite happen, right? Because then it’s going to be the police officers word versus yours,” said Greenwell. 

Greenwell notes that a lot of younger adults tend to increasingly get their news from social media or non traditional outlets, and with Floyd’s video circulating media platforms like Instagram and Twitter, awareness of his story grew rapidly. 

The Change 

Ryan Van Velzer

The crowd outside Metro Council before it banned no-knock warrants.

In recent weeks, Breonna’s Law has been passed and signed by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. The ordinance bans no-knock warrants like the one used in Taylor’s killing. Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) have also fired one of the three officers involved in Taylor’s death; no progress has been reported about the other officers. During the course of this, LMPD was also under scrutiny for behavior and leadership.

“I spoke at that rally, and I celebrated the fact that the law was passed,” said Drake. “So now it’s no more no knocks in the city. Great I said, but it’s always hard that it came from the back of a Black woman’s death,” said Drake. “A Black woman has to die for this city to do the right thing.” 

Despite the changes that have occurred, University of Louisville Department chair of Criminal Justice Cherie Dawson-Edwards said the case highlights the need for more attention to be paid to police policy reform. 

“There’s problems with police officers, but there’s also problems with policies and processes that allow you to do things that end up with a Breonna Taylor,” said Dawson-Edwards. “I think that’s what we are grappling with and have to come to grips with as a community is, are you mad at the person or the policy that allowed the person to do what they did?”

Dawson-Edwards believes that more policies will be created around racial justice but worries about the intersectionality of future proposed legislation. 

“I worry about gender-related justice and racial justice not meeting together for Black women and Black girls,” said Dawson-Edwards. 

Nation Grieved A Health Care Worker 

Taylor’s case raises another issue about representation that hits the intersection of socioeconomic status and race: Drake says the one factor working in Taylor’s favor in terms of public perception was that she was a health care worker on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic. 

In other words, in some people’s eyes, Taylor was a sympathetic victim.

“One thing I want America to get out of this is that every victim will not look like that,” said Drake. “You have to feel sorry for her and grieve because she was an EMT… and that’s honorable.”

But Drake asks: what if, like some other Black women killed by police, she hadn’t fit the mainstream depiction of sympathy? 

“America still needs to be outraged,” Drake said. 

The coronavirus pandemic may have played a role in the initial lack of attention on Taylor’s case, as Kentucky was just beginning to shut down. But it also may have accelerated the activism that followed in the Black Lives Matter movement. 

During times of quarantine and a global health pandemic, more people are at home watching the news and on social media, Drake noted. Protests have occurred in all 50 states and internationally at a time when record numbers of Americans are out of work.

“I think what happened with the coronavirus is that many people were home and they weren’t in the business of life and going to work,” said Drake. “It was like the world paused for a minute.”

But despite all this, Drake doesn’t see this as a turning point. 

“No I don’t, I have to be honest,” she said. “I think women, particularly Black women will always continue to fight to be heard and fight to be seen, always.”

And even if this is a sign of a change, she said, she is still sad that it came at the cost of Breonna Taylor’s life.

The post Why Black Women Like Breonna Taylor Still Need ‘Say Her Name’ Movement appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Meet The Teen Leading This Kentucky Town’s Discussion Of Racism In Appalachia Tuesday, Jun 23 2020 

The courtroom was silent as 19-year-old Dayjha Hogg approached the lectern at a Letcher County fiscal court meeting, stared down a panel of county magistrates, and spoke. 

“I know COVID’s going around right now, so just imagine, there’s no COVID, normal society, and imagine you walk around and it’s like you have the plague.”

Hogg is biracial, and her entire county leadership is White. The Berea College student gripped the lectern to steady herself, and continued. 

People look at you and it’s almost as if, if they stare too long, if they breathe the same air, they’re scared that they’re going to catch the plague. That is just a small, small glimpse of what it was like growing up here in eastern Kentucky as a minority.”

Conversations about police brutality and racial equity are happening across the nation, and rural communities are no exception. 

In Letcher County and Whitesburg, its county seat, a racial reckoning is unfolding that is at once peculiar to this rural Appalachian community and inextricably tied to the one unfolding across the nation. 

This reckoning came after a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Whitesburg. 

Hogg helped organize the protest, and she had been a little afraid not many people would show up. But roughly 200 people attended in a town of just 1,800 —  in a county where 80% of the vote went to Donald Trump in 2016. Democratic State Representative and U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker visited from Louisville to speak at the Friday evening event. 

“It was amazing before and afterwards,” Hogg recalled. “We were like, ‘Oh my gosh, we pulled it off, we really did it!” 

But the following Sunday, the county’s highest elected official, Judge-Executive Terry Adams, posted on his personal Facebook page denouncing the local event and the national Black Lives Matter protests. 

“This is a strange new world we live in today!!!” the executive wrote. “You have a small group of far leftists who want to stir the pot on racism that rarely exists anymore but in their minds. Then you have the majority of the people that have common sense that get pushed into a corner on these nonsense issues.” 

“I believe the ones that are always pulling out the race card are the racists,” he said, comparing those who wanted to remove Confederate statues to Hitler. 

Dozens of people commented on the Facebook post, defending Black lives, defending Confederate statues, debating whether looting was justified. 

When Hogg saw the post, her heart sank. She wasn’t surprised, she said — she had lived with racism all her life. But this time, something was different: Her White friends, even White people she barely knew, stood with her.

At the regularly scheduled fiscal court meeting the next day, about 20 Letcher Countians filed into the bare and echoey courtroom. For a local governmental body that primarily concerned itself with paving roads and repairing water lines, it was an unprecedented crowd, and it touched Hogg that they had shown up in her defense. 

The soft-spoken judge-executive looked uncomfortable as he brought the meeting to order. 

“I suppose you all are here because of the Facebook post I posted,” Adams said. “I’m sorry if anything I said offended you. I’m just one man.” 

And he ceded the floor. 

“This is my hometown, so all my life I’ve always empathized with everyone around me,” Hogg said. “I’ve always understood, they’re just uneducated, this is how they were raised, this is how they grew up. But today I have these people here supporting me and wanting me to speak up. And for years, me and my family, and so many people in the Black community, have had to hear these derogatory terms and take them, and accept them, and lay down with them, and day by day it belittles you until you feel less than anyone in your community.” 

Hogg shared the daily discrimination she faced in school, saying that her mother always tried to speak to the principal about it, but Hogg wouldn’t let her. Hogg knew that if she was seen protesting the abuse she faced, she would be accused of playing the race card to get special treatment. She said whenever the cafeteria had watermelon, she never took a slice, because it wasn’t worth the taunts she would receive. 

“If I have to rip open a scab, dig into an old wound because my friends are here to support me and that’s what it takes to prove that there is racism in Letcher County, then that’s what I’m willing to do.”

Sydney Boles | Ohio Valley ReSource

Letcher County Judge-Executive Terry Adams faced criticism after a Facebook post that was critical of Black Lives Matter protests.

Letcher County is 98% White, according to the 2018 American Census Survey, but art and media about Appalachia too often erases the experiences and contributions of Black Appalachians and Appalachians of color. It’s too easy, Hogg said, for racism and discrimination to be swept under the rug. 

Tanya Turner, a local White resident and a co-host of the popular Trillbilly Workers Party podcast, also spoke, asking the court to remedy the damage caused by Adams’ post. 

“I think since words have been used by people on this court to divide people, I hope that there are some real solid actions taken by this court to change that narrative,” Turner said. “This court could release a statement of solidarity in support of Black lives. That is the minimum that we could do.”

The court has not yet released such a statement. 

Small-Town Policing 

Turner also raised concerns about the police presence, a touchy topic in the small community. 

“This is a town with six police officers, yet there were probably 20 police officers downtown Friday night [at the protest,]” Turner told Adams and the other magistrates. “Now, I don’t know why that was, or what the expectation was, but that did not make people feel safe.” 

While protestors in many cities, including Kentucky’s largest city of Louisville, have been met with tear gas and rubber bullets, the Whitesburg protest was held with the blessing of local police chief Tyrone Fields, who is biracial.

Still, heads turned when Turner finished speaking and Fields stood up from a bench in the back of the courtroom. “May I follow up, please?” he asked the judge-executive. 

Whitesburg had four police officers, actually, he corrected Turner, and he had called in help from other local forces to make sure all the streets to downtown were blocked off after other peaceful protests in Kentucky and around the country faced aggression from right-wing counter protesters. 

But Fields also wanted to take a stand. 

“It’s safe to say that George Floyd was ⁠—  and I’ll say this as the chief of police ⁠— it’s safe to say that he was murdered. We do know that. They might as well have hung him from a tree. Any police officer that thinks he was not murdered should immediately turn their badge in.” 

Adams Responds

Following nearly two hours of comments from the community, attendees reiterated their demands for a statement in support of Black lives and for members of the court to denounce the words of their superior. One by one, each magistrate said he or she disagreed with what Judge-Executive Adams had written. 

Adams finally responded with “I’m sorry if I offended you.” 

One woman, who had been silent for the duration of the meeting, interrupted. “I’m sorry, I just have to. You’re saying you’re sorry if you offended anyone, but are you sorry for what you actually said?”

Adams repeated the same statement, so I pushed him on it in his office a few days later, on Juneteenth. 

He chose his words carefully. 

“I’ve got a son that’s got Down Syndrome,” he explained. “And after I get to thinking about that, people say things that sometimes bother me because of him. And I could see the same thing in racism now.” 

He became emotional, swallowing back tears. 

“If I’ve hurt people’s feelings, I’m sorry. I should not have brought what’s national, going on nationally, and combined it with people wanting to speak out locally.” 

Hogg doesn’t think Judge Adams really gets it, but she says the conversation was productive. For now, Hogg says, that feels like justice. 

“This little town is making big moves, just like all these other places,” she said. 

Behind This Story

Sydney Boles produced this story as part of the America Amplified initiative using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Q: What did the people you talked to say about the experience of being interviewed for public radio?

With the exception of Judge-Executive Adams, who seemed very uncomfortable having me in his office, everyone I spoke to for this story was elated to share their experience confronting racism in their hometown. Dayjha Hogg, the protagonist of this piece, said something that stuck with me: “I never thought my experience was that important or interesting, but now with all these other people listening to me, I guess it must be.” 

Q: What surprised you about this type of community engagement?

It was joyful! The majority of the stories any journalist writes are negative— which makes sense. It’s our job to make sure people know what’s going on in their communities, whether it’s political corruption, environmental harms, or any number of things. But when the status quo is the silent tolerance of injustice, joy becomes newsworthy.

Q: What lessons do you have for others who want to do the same?

Local governance meetings remain a timeless method of taking the pulse of your community.

This Week In Conversation: The Pandemic And Kentucky’s Primary Election Friday, Jun 19 2020 

Kentucky’s primary election is Tuesday, June 23rd, and the coronavirus pandemic is changing the way most Kentuckians cast their ballots.

The primary was postponed from May to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and for the first time, Kentuckians are being allowed to vote by mail, or vote in person early without providing an excuse.

Most Kentucky counties will have only one voting location, but a federal lawsuit has been filed seeking to add balloting sites in the state’s most populous counties.

This week on In Conversation, we’ll talk about the upcoming election and the balloting process with Kentucky Secretary of State Michael Adams. Kentucky Public Radio Capitol Reporter Ryland Barton will be here to preview the primary races.

Plus, we’ll have the latest on the demonstrations for racial justice that are entering their fourth week in many cities. Friday is Juneteenth, and we’ll hear some citizens’ thoughts on the day commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S.

Listen to In Conversation live on 89.3 WFPL Friday at 11:00am 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.

LMPD Report On Police Shootings Doesn’t Name Breonna Taylor, David McAtee Wednesday, Jun 17 2020 

Once or twice a year, the Louisville Metro Police Department releases data on incidents when an LMPD officer fired their weapon or was fired upon.

It’s a step towards transparency that many other police departments have not taken; however, the most recent report contains several omissions and errors that policing experts say limit the dataset’s usefulness.

The report, dated June 10, includes an entry for the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, but her name is not in it. Two men shot by police this month, David McAtee and another man they haven’t named, are also left out, though the new report was issued because LMPD officers were involved in new shootings. Three individuals killed by LMPD in 2018 are also omitted from the update.

The analysis inaccurately indicates that no police shootings occurred over a seven-year period, skewing the 3.7-a-year average of shootings it claims. It also includes those years in its assessment that shootings result from 0.00002% of LMPD’s citizen contacts.

(Click this link to download the report.)

Representatives from LMPD and the mayor’s office have not responded to questions submitted Monday about the database.

David Harris, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, says the report from LMPD is a step in the right direction, despite its flaws, and he applauds LMPD for releasing some information.

No national database of police shootings currently exists. The Washington Post and the Guardian maintain databases of fatal police shootings, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation has created a voluntary program to collect data on use of force by police officers.

But the irregularities in LMPD’s report underscore the need for a national standard for collecting data about police shootings, Harris said, so that the public can better understand one of the most extreme powers of government.

“The public quite simply has a right to know when agents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky are using, or attempting to use, deadly force on its citizens,” Harris said. “We should know that, as members of the public. Here we are as Americans walking around essentially blind to this problem until [media] step into the breach.”

The LMPD issued the latest report on its website after nearly two weeks of widespread protests prompted by the death of Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman shot and killed by plain-clothes detectives serving a no-knock warrant at her apartment. The report also came 10 days after law enforcement shot and killed McAtee at his barbecue stand in the West End. 

Over the last two weeks, the refrain from protesters has been, “Say her name: Breonna Taylor.” After McAtee’s death, protesters began chanting his name as well. Neither is named in this data.

Database Structure Could Obscure Hurt Bystanders

The report includes a database of police shootings going back to 2011. Entries detail the name, race and sex of the suspect and officers involved, and a narrative description of the event. None of the columns indicate if the suspect was the same person who shot at — or was shot by — police.

The narrative for March 13 says that officers executing a search warrant “were met by gunfire from within the residence.” 

“Multiple officers returned fire. One subject was taken into custody and another subject was killed during the incident,” it said. 

Kenneth Walker is the named suspect, and he told police he fired the shot that hit one detective in the leg. He was not shot when police returned fire. Taylor, the person killed in the police shooting, is not named.

Harris said it appears the database is structured to focus on the individual who is the target of enforcement. He said structuring the data this way isn’t necessarily a problem, but it could gloss over key information when a bystander is killed.

“If you key your data to the target of your enforcement and somebody else is killed, you are going to lose information that’s important — not the least of which is the fact that a different person was killed,” Harris said. “That, in itself, is an important piece of data.”

Taylor family

Breonna Taylor, here in December, would have turned 27 on Friday. Her friends and family remember Taylor as a caring person who loved her job in health care and enjoyed playing cards with her aunts.

That’s similar to the circumstances of Taylor’s case. Walker said he believed they were being robbed when he shot at plain-clothes officers entering the dark apartment in the middle of the night. Taylor, who had been sleeping, was killed in the hallway. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced late last month he was dropping the charges, pending further investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

The LMPD report is dated the day after the agency released a nearly blank, inaccurate incident report that listed Taylor’s injuries as “none.” LMPD later issued a statement saying the inaccuracies were due to a problem with the reporting program that created the file.

Missing Cases And Rise In Police Shootings

The report also includes statistical data on shootings by month and year, going back to 2003.

This data says no “officer-involved shooting” cases were opened from 2003-10, though a KyCIR review of media reports found LMPD officers shot at least 10 people in those years.

LMPD’s report would indicate that its officers have been involved in 68 shootings since 2003. Nearly half of the shootings in that timeframe have occurred since 2018. 

It breaks the number of shootings out by division, though it’s unclear if that reflects where the shooting occurred or which personnel was involved.

The suspect was Black in 63% of those shootings, according to the report.

John DeCarlo is a professor at the University of New Haven and former police chief of Branford Police Department.

DeCarlo said that gap from 2003 to 2010 could skew any analysis of the data. But, DeCarlo said, the data LMPD has released after 2011 clearly shows a rise in police shootings in recent years.

“What we are seeing is this big spike, and you have to ask yourself why. Why is it going up?” DeCarlo said.

Last year, LMPD said it opened investigations into 16 incidents where an officer shot at suspects or was shot at, the highest number by far since 2011. So far this year, LMPD has already recorded eight police shootings.

DeCarlo said police departments should collect more data and use the information they have to determine why shootings appear to be on the rise in Louisville. 

“Any transparency is certainly a step in the right direction. The US as a whole is way behind the data curve,” DeCarlo said. “Police are the only organization in the United States that can not only take away your freedom, but use lethal force on you.”

According to LMPD’s report, internal investigations are still open for at least 37 shootings. But the data omits several cases.

In Likely Formatting Error, Some Deaths Left Out

Three people killed by LMPD in 2018 were not included in LMPD’s most recent database report. 

In February 2018, LMPD officers shot and killed two men riding in a car after someone in the car shot at police. Billy Ray Riggs and Alexander Simpson were killed in the shooting, but only Simpson is included in the database.

Benjamin Kennedy was killed after firing at LMPD officers in November 2018 and is not on the list.

Raad Fakhri Salman, who was killed in July 2018, is also not included. 

Salman and Kennedy were included in previous versions of the report, including one released in May. 

LMPD didn’t respond to questions about it, but it appears those names may have been left off during the conversion process. These cases were the last on the list in 2018, and the June 10 report is the first LMPD released in a PDF format instead of an Excel spreadsheet. 

LMPD’s report includes eight police shootings so far this year, but only included the narratives for six.

The narrative description of the June 1 shooting of David McAtee is not included in the report. Two LMPD officers and two Kentucky National Guard members shot at McAtee when they went to 26th and Broadway to break up a crowd violating curfew. Police said McAtee shot at officers; the LMPD officers who shot back did not activate their body cameras, in violation of LMPD policy. 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer fired then-LMPD Chief Steve Conrad following the news that there were no body cameras. The investigation determined a National Guard member fired the round that killed McAtee.

Louisville police shot another person the next day: an armed 25-year-old white man in the East End, after he appeared to reach for a gun. LMPD has not yet named the man, and that narrative is also not included in the report. He survived the shooting.

Harris, the University of Pittsburgh professor, says even if these omissions are the result of an honest mistake, they undercut the usefulness of reporting data in the first place.

“It’s good that they are doing this, but it could certainly be more useful and you don’t want it to hide things, even if that’s completely inadvertent,” Harris said. “If the objective here is to be transparent and to inform your community, you don’t want to have the list broken out in a way that does that even if that’s not intended.”

Contact Jared Bennett at jbennett@kycir.org.

The post LMPD Report On Police Shootings Doesn’t Name Breonna Taylor, David McAtee appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Use Of Pepper Balls Resumes At Downtown Louisville Protests Monday, Jun 15 2020 

After two weeks where Louisville Metro Police largely ditched the riot gear and stood watch over protests, the tone changed Monday evening and officers resumed firing pepper balls to disperse crowds.

Police declared an unlawful assembly shortly after 7 p.m. on Ninth Street, where a group of protesters was blocking the roadway. The actions came shortly after demonstrators blocked an entrance to Interstate 64, and after a news crew from WLKY shared video of a man throwing a brick through the windshield of the news vehicle.

Police warned media and others to stay out of the area.

A live feed from the protest showed a line of roughly 50 LMPD officers advancing on a group of protesters, and an officer shoved and detained a woman before they began firing gas and pepper at the retreating crowd.

Monday morning, protesters said they witnessed two incidents of vehicles hitting protesters, including one involving a police officer, in downtown Louisville at the intersection of Sixth and Jefferson. 

Protester Michael Pyles said they had camped out at Jefferson Square Park overnight and were protesting peacefully when he got hit by an officer in his car. 

“I watched him look at his back up cam and he ran right into me, literally,” Pyles said. “So I hit his car. He gets out like, don’t be touching my car and I’m like, dude you just hit us.”

Pyles said there was also a man in a car with a large gun threatening protesters. He said he doesn’t feel safe out there. 

During a press briefing Monday afternoon, Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert Schroeder said he wasn’t aware of the incident involving a police car, but they have detectives looking into a few events from the morning protests. 

Schroeder showed footage of protesters in the street, during which one car slows down, then drives into several protesters, pushing one up onto the hood. Schroeder said there was a disagreement with Metro employees and protesters, who had set up a camp in Jefferson Square Park. He believed the protesters were trying to block traffic.

“Eventually the protesters did open up the streets, which we appreciate,” Schroeder said. “Again, I want to say that we are fine with protesters using Jefferson Square Park for protest. But we need that space to stay safe for everyone.” 

This story has been updated.

Correction: A previous version of this story said the police deployed tear gas Monday evening. An LMPD official said they only deployed pepper balls.

Family, Friends Mourn David McAtee At Wake Friday, Jun 12 2020 

89.3 WFPL News Louisville · Family, Friends Mourn David McAtee At WakeFamily, friends and acquaintances lined the sidewalk outside St. Stephen Church Friday afternoon to pay their respects to David “Yaya” McAtee. McAtee was a Black barbecue chef who was shot and killed by a member of the National Guard last week as authorities tried to enforce a curfew during protests over racism and police brutality.

At the door of St. Stephen Church, people were let in one-by-one to pay their respects, after having their temperature checked to screen for the coronavirus. In line was Calvin Brown, who used to visit McAtee’s shop, Yaya’s BBQ. He said McAtee was a role model for people in this West End neighborhood, where many residents grapple with poverty.

“Even if you had a record, you could still look at David McAtee and say ‘I could do what you doing,'” Brown said.

Brown said McAtee made a business, and a neighborhood institution, out of very little.

“It was a barbecue grill, a bag of charcoal and some meat. And people supported him and felt the love that he shared,” he said.

McAtee was known for giving free food to the homeless, as well as to the police.

It’s still unclear exactly what happened the night he died. According to video shared by police, National Guard and officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department (LPMD) arrived at the corner of 26th Street and Broadway to enforce the curfew. Soon after authorities arrived, LMPD officers began shooting pepper balls. State investigators say McAtee fired his gun, and that when police and National Guard returned fire with live rounds, a National Guard bullet struck his chest, killing him.

McAtee’s nephew, Marvin McAtee, has said he doesn’t think his uncle would ever knowingly shoot at police. On Friday, he said he doesn’t know what justice would look like for his uncle, but he’s upset the family hasn’t gotten an apology.

“There’s no justice for me because that don’t bring him back,” Marvin McAtee said.

“I can’t change what happened that day. All I can do is tell the police I just wish they came and said they sorry for what happened, because we was there for them.”

J. Tyler Franklin | wfpl.org

Friends and family also gathered at Yaya’s BBQ during the wake on Friday.

Marvin has inherited the barbecue shop. And he said he’s trying his best to carry on his uncle’s legacy. It helps that he can still feel his uncle’s presence.

“A couple days ago, I was doing things at the shop, and then I paused for a minute because I hear him saying to me ‘You know you ain’t doing that right,'” he said.

“I love that energy in that shop because he’s there with me. You know? I don’t even know how to explain it to you. I just feel him in me when I’m in the shop.”

Marvin and his family went inside the chapel, where McAtee’s body was dressed in a white suit, in a gold and black coffin and surrounded by flowers.

Later, the family planned to go back to Yaya’s BBQ for another celebration of the man they loved.

The funeral for David McAtee is Saturday, Jun. 13 at 1 p.m. at Canaan Christian Church.

Protesters Say ‘Breonna’s Law’ Is Only A First Step Toward Justice Friday, Jun 12 2020 

Hundreds of protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter” outside the Louisville Metro Police Department Headquarters in downtown on Friday.

The protests continued as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer signed into law a ban on no-knock warrants and after Gov. Andy Beshear announced a statue of Jefferson Davis will be removed from the Capitol Rotunda.

University of Louisville student and youth organizer David Echeverria said he and other demonstrators are celebrating the passage of the ordinance banning no-knock warrants, but do not believe officials have done enough to grant justice for Breonna Taylor or stymie racial injustice in the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Echeverria said protesters would like to see the officers involved in Taylor’s death fired and prosecuted, and the Louisville police defunded with the money going to impoverished communities of color.

“So we are just demanding that police officers are fired, arrested and charged in Breonna Taylor’s case and that the police department is defunded with the upcoming budget being proposed,” Echeverria said.


Protesters with Black Lives Matter Louisville began the demonstration at 2 p.m. at the Great Lawn of Louisville’s Waterfront Park. There, organizers passed out chants for the day including:

Harriet Tubman was a freedom fighter / and she taught us how to fight / We’re gonna fight all day and night / Until we get it right / Which side are you on my people, Which side are you on?

The refrain “Which Side Are You On” was originally written by the daughter of a union-organizing coal miner during the Harlan County War. It’s been riffed on at protests ever since, including Civil Rights protests in the 1960s.

Before the march began, an organizer called on the crowd to be peaceful, but also emphasized that continuing civil disobedience was necessary to meet their demands. Protesters marched through downtown streets with bikers riding ahead to block traffic at intersections.

Ahead of the march, helping to organize and inspire, walked Neal Robertson, People for Justice president. At one point, Robertson helped to make sure an ambulance could get through the road blocks ahead of the crowd.

“Man the people are speaking. You hear their mouths loud and clear. They’re calling out Breonna Taylor. They’re calling out George Floyd. They’re calling out David McAtee. And guess what? They’re are so many more names,” Robertson said.

Ryan Van Velzer | wfpl.org

Robertson called recent accomplishments “crumbs off a piece of pizza.” He said real change has to be economic. Robertson said it has to fix the economic inequality created by systemic racism.

“We’re fighting for economic change,” he said, adding that he also supports defunding the police and reallocating funding to West End communities.

In front of Metro Hall, organizers had the crowd of several hundred lock arms and stand for eight minutes of silence in solidarity with George Floyd. Afterward, an organizer on a megaphone lined up black and brown protesters on the inside with white protesters on the outside of the crowd then marched toward LMPD Headquarters.

Outside LMPD, protesters chanted Black Lives Matter and other slogans before peacefully walking around the corner and returning to Jefferson Square Park.

Support For Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Wanes As Protests Continue Thursday, Jun 11 2020 

It’s the first Sunday of June, and a group of young adults are crowded in a conference room in Metro Hall. Some of them have spent days protesting police brutality and the killing of Breonna Taylor. Now, finally, they’re meeting with the mayor.

It’s not going well.

They have come for answers, but don’t seem satisfied with what Mayor Greg Fischer has to say. These young people start talking over each other, and him. They say these issues are ongoing, they’re pervasive, they need to be addressed now.

One woman’s voice cuts through.

“So this has been a continuous issue with you, Mayor Fischer. If you can’t do your job, then you need to resign,” she says.

Less than two years ago, Fischer, a Democrat, swept into a third term with more than 60 percent of the vote. He’s the mayor that brought the city back from the recession. The guy that revived downtown, and created a data-driven city of the future. He’s the incoming president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Fischer has not been universally beloved, but it’s safe to say that — in nearly a decade of running this city — he’s never faced criticism like he has in the last two weeks.

“Just the right thing to do in this moment would be to say, I am unable to serve the city of Louisville anymore,” said State Rep. Attica Scott.

Scott represents the 41st District, which includes west Louisville, the majority-Black area of the city where she grew up and still lives. She’s one of the people speaking out against Fischer.

Two weeks ago, she was among the peaceful protesters teargassed by Louisville Metro Police.

“It’s not about you. It’s about the people,” she said. “And when the people are rejecting you, it’s time for you to go.”

Protesters Raise Concerns After 2 Police Killings

In the nearly three months since Taylor was killed in her home by Louisville Metro police, critics have called Fischer’s response too late and too weak. Protesters took to the streets two weeks ago, and on many nights since, the march has gone to his doorstep. In that time, criticism of the mayor has only grown, particularly after another black Louisvillian — David McAtee — was shot and killed by LMPD and National Guard on June 1.

On Wednesday, a state official said the bullet that killed McAtee came from a National Guard member, though two LMPD officers also fired on him at his barbecue restaurant at 26th Street and Broadway.

Scott, who serves the district where McAtee lived and worked, said the community has lost faith in its leader.

“I still struggle to find where there is a heaping amount of support remaining out there for him to continue serving as mayor,” she said.

Last week, Fischer lost the support of the Fairness Campaign, which endorsed him in all three of his general elections. The issue has also emerged in the upcoming Senate Democratic primary: candidate Mike Broihier has called for Fischer to resign. His challengers, Amy McGrath and State Rep. Charles Booker, did not respond to request for comment on the issue.

But some, like Congressman John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville, are still supporting the mayor. In a statement, Yarmuth said calls for Fischer’s resignation are unjustified. He pointed to the city’s investment in the West End, and said Fischer has been a strong leader for an inclusive and compassionate city.

Nationally, Fischer has earned the ire of celebrities and national civil rights figures who have told their social media followers to call and tell him to fire the officers involved in the Taylor case.

Quintez Brown is a 19-year-old organizer with Black Lives Matter. After Fischer said Wednesday that the city won’t defund police and the community does not want that, Brown said it’s time for Fischer to go.

“His actions these past two weeks have shown that he is standing against the protesters, standing against the Louisville community and has sided with the police,” he said.

Police Take Issue With Fischer, Too

But the police are also dissatisfied with Fischer. Last Wednesday, a group of LMPD officers walked out when Fischer visited during a roll call.

Ryan Nichols, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, said officers are upset that Fischer hasn’t corrected some misconceptions about LMPD’s role in the Taylor shooting. He said the union wouldn’t go so far as to call for his resignation, but the trust is broken.

“If he chose to resign, you know, we would support him in his retirement and wish him well. If he continues to serve as our mayor, we challenge him to do better,” Nichols said.

The union’s contract with the city is currently under negotiation.

But Nichols admits “doing better” means something very different to different groups right now.

Fischer, at least, thinks he’s still the right person for the job.

“Look, when I was elected for this job and swore the oath, I swore to do it during good times and bad times,” he said during a press conference Wednesday. “So what’s important now in Louisville and cities all over America, is there are plans to move forward.”

What Would Happen?

If Fischer did decide to resign, his deputy mayor would step into the role temporarily, until Metro Council appointed someone to finish out the term. If they fail to select someone, the responsibility would fall to the governor.

Theoretically, Metro Council could impeach the mayor, but council leaders haven’t taken much of a stance on resignation — let alone anything more severe.

No matter what happens, the voters won’t weigh in on who’s mayor until 2022.

For Stevon Edwards, those next steps are an important part of the equation. During a protest in Jeffersontown Sunday, she said she volunteered for Fischer’s campaigns and went to the election night parties.

And that makes the recent weeks hurt even more.

“I’m very disappointed as a Black woman, but also just as a citizen of Louisville, with the promises of compassion,” she said. “This is not showing compassion.”

But she said Fischer is just part of the problem.

“And so it is time for him to resign. At the same time, who was going to get to take his place?” she said. “We need to really think if you’re demanding for the resignation, who else is going to step in and make those changes?”

The problems, Edwards said, are systemic. They weren’t created by one man — and they won’t be fixed entirely by removing him from office.

This story included reporting from Ryland Barton and Ryan Van Velzer.

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