Amid Calls For Transparency, City Agreed To Closed FOP Negotiations Thursday, Mar 25 2021 

In early February, Celine Mutuyemariya decided she’d waited long enough. 

She’d been calling and emailing Mayor Greg Fischer’s office for months about the 490 Project’s push to get community observers in the room while the city and union negotiated the new five-year police contract. She never heard back. So when she saw Fischer in the front row of a community forum she was attending, she took her opportunity. 

“We have a petition with over 1,300 people who want to have access to the police negotiations,” she said into the microphone. “All we want to do is to witness how these negotiations function because you said that contract prevented you from getting justice for Breonna Taylor.” 

Mutuyemariya spoke directly to Fischer, saying he could just decide to allow community observers in the room if he wanted to.

“Well, not really,” Fischer said. “Because there’s an agreement between what the FOP will allow and what the city will allow.”

Eleanor Klibanoff

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer speaks to a community group in February.

The ground rules do say that all negotiation sessions shall be closed to the press and public and that neither party will talk to the media about the negotiations until they’re over. 

But those ground rules were signed on the first day of negotiations: January 21, 2021, just two weeks before this confrontation and months into widespread calls for greater transparency from city government and the Louisville Metro Police Department. 

Organizers with the 490 Project, a Louisville activist group, provided documentation of emails and phone calls to the mayor’s office asking for community representation as early as October. They say they are incredibly disappointed that the city agreed to these terms months after hearing, and ignoring, that call.

“The city agreed to these ground rules that basically encourage opacity, even as they’re saying, again, publicly that they want transparency,” said Rachel Hardy, an organizer with the 490 Project. “Obviously, in our opinion, both of those things can’t be true.”

River City Fraternal Order of Police press secretary Dave Mutchler declined to comment, citing the ground rules that prevent discussing negotiations with the media. City spokesperson Jean Porter said in a statement that the city had some concerns about how these proposals might extend the process or impact the city’s other collective bargaining agreements. 

“It’s our hope that we can have informed conversations about how we can achieve more transparency, within the confines of existing laws, while adhering to our No. 1 goal, which is to reach an agreement between [Louisville Metro Government] and the FOP that meets the needs of both the police and the community they serve,” she wrote. 

[/media-credit] Screengrab from the ground rules governing FOP contract negotiations

City officials met with the 490 Project twice after that confrontation at the forum; KyCIR has reviewed audio recordings of those meetings. In the first meeting on March 9th, representatives from the mayor’s office said they would look into the legality of adding community observers and whether they could renegotiate the ground rules. 

Metro Government General Counsel Annale Taylor emailed the group a few days later and said that the negotiation team had “broached the general topic of opening up the negotiations with the FOP negotiation team.”

“We are still researching and reviewing similar models used in other cities so that we can develop a specific and detailed proposal to present to the FOP,” she wrote.

In the second meeting on March 19, Deputy Mayor Ellen Hesen told the 490 Project that negotiations would continue without community observers for now. 

“The next time [the FOP and the city] get together next month is going to be way too soon to have this resolved,” she said. “It’s kind of like turning around a cruise ship in a pond. It’s gonna take a little bit. It’s not like flipping a switch.”

Contract Negotiations Ongoing

National protests this summer have dragged police union contracts into the spotlight. In Louisville, Fischer has pointed to the union contract’s due process provisions as one reason he could not discipline or fire the officers involved in the Taylor shooting as swiftly as protesters wanted.  

The 490 Project and other community organizers argue that bringing the public into the negotiations, even as a silent observer, would help rebuild trust and hold both the union and elected leaders accountable. 

“For so many years, the police union has basically been able to operate with pretty much complete impunity and essentially just have undue influence,” said Hardy. “A lot of it is because people don’t understand the process and there’s no sunlight on the negotiations. There is no oversight.”

The last collective bargaining agreement with the FOP expired in June 2018, and was extended repeatedly as the two sides negotiated. This fall, after months of protests over LMPD officers killing Breonna Taylor, the city and the FOP agreed to a short-term contract to run through June 30th. 

Metro Council approved the contract by a 16-10 vote as protesters stood outside the building, demanding they vote it down. Some Council members have said they will not approve a future contract that doesn’t include significant changes to provisions that limit officer discipline and accountability. 

The short-term contract contained pay raises and new health care benefits, as well as some of the reforms included in the settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family. The city would negotiate other aspects of that settlement in this upcoming contract, a spokesperson for the Mayor told WFPL News at the time. 

Ayesha Bell Hardaway, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, studies the history and influence of police unions. She says the secrecy around these negotiations has contributed to the growing power of police unions, often without much notice from the community. 

“Without a public window into these negotiations, this is a part of how we ended up in this space,” she said. “If the aim of local government is to improve relationships with communities, they should be open to figuring out new and different ways to ensure those communities feel heard.” 

The 490 Project has offered two proposals to add community oversight to Louisville’s negotiations with the FOP. The first would require changing the ground rules, to add three community members as silent observers to the process, who could then report back to the wider community about the ongoing discussions. 

City officials said one major concern with this idea is quickly deciding who the community representatives would be, since many groups are pushing to be at the table. 

The second proposal would not require changing the ground rules: they’ve asked the city to put community members on the negotiating team directly. 

Hardaway said that’s a “creative” idea.

“What a message that would be sent by those in Louisville that have indicated that they are interested in reform, interested in repairing the relationships with communities that have been negatively impacted by police violence, to say we want everyone at the table,” she said.

In the meeting, Hesen rejected this idea.

“That sounds like a nice theory,” she said. “But you know, when we’re looking at multi-year contracts, and multiple millions of dollars, we certainly need people from Metro HR, Metro Finance and from the agencies…at the table. So I don’t think we can substitute” community members, she said. 

Nothing in the ground rules specifies the number of people on the negotiating team. On the call, Hesen said the team ranged from three to 15 people depending on what specific provisions were being negotiated. 

Public sector union contracts are governed by city ordinance and state law. In one of the calls with the 490 Project, a city lawyer raised a legal concern around the state’s Open Meetings Act, which exempts collective bargaining negotiations between public employers and their employees or their representative. 

The 490 Project argues that allows them to close the meeting, but does not forbid opening it to the public. 

Urgent Action Needed, Activists Say

Chief of Community Building Vincent James told the group he would respond to their proposals by March 30th.

But the organizers behind the 490 Project say that, after waiting months to hear from the city, anything other than urgent action is insufficient. 

“If they’re not willing to do something essentially in the next month, if they’re not ready to make dramatic change now, they are kicking the can down the road five, six, seven, even maybe eight years, depending on how long this next contract gets extended,” said Hardy. “That’s pushing it off on to the next generation of politicians and potentially, organizers.”

Metro Council President David James, a former FOP president and current mayoral candidate, expressed concerns about the legality of adding community observers. But he said he would encourage Fischer to find other ways to solicit community feedback prior to the contract being finalized. 

He also took issue with Fischer’s claim at that meeting in February that the community has oversight of the process through the Metro Council, which isn’t involved. 

“The Mayor does negotiations for the contract. The Metro Council does not negotiate with the FOP, or the mayor, about the contract. It’s a done deal by the time it gets to the council,” he said. 

The FOP has tried to cut Metro Council out of the process altogether. In November, the FOP filed a lawsuit arguing that contracts do not need Metro Council approval to become valid. County Attorney Michael O’Connell’s office issued a finding disagreeing with that assertion. That lawsuit is still pending. 

Other Cities Added Community Voices

If Louisville added community observers, it would not be the first city to do so. 

In 2017, the Austin Justice Coalition pushed the city council to vote down a contract that they didn’t agree with, and bring community members to the table for the next round of negotiations. The contract the city eventually signed included raises for officers and increased accountability measures. One city council member called it “the most forward-thinking contract in the nation.”

The City of Portland and its police union agreed to ground rules that allow silent observers at alternating negotiation sessions. The city and the union issue joint press releases after each session to keep the public informed.  

This summer, Philadelphia passed an ordinance requiring public hearings ahead of police union negotiations. The union sued the city, claiming the ordinance violated their collective bargaining rights and state law. 

Hardaway, the law professor, said no union contract will ever please everyone. But when city officials work to make the process as understandable and open as possible, it goes a long way. 

“We certainly can get to a place where we feel that we have been heard and the government is doing what is best under the circumstances,” she said. “I think there is value in a willingness to say, ‘Without public understanding and education and an opportunity for meaningful input into these processes, I’m not doing my job as an elected and appointed official.’” 

Correction: The FOP and city agree neither party will talk to the media about contract negotiations until they’re over. The agreement was misstated in a previous version.

The post Amid Calls For Transparency, City Agreed To Closed FOP Negotiations appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Mayor’s Office Releases Internal Investigation File In Breonna Taylor Case Wednesday, Oct 7 2020 


City officials on Wednesday released the Public Integrity Unit’s investigative file into the LMPD killing of Breonna Taylor in March.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s office released the file in a press release, saying releasing the documents as quickly as possible to the public was important.

“Much of the information in these files was included in records from the Grand Jury proceedings that were released last week,” Fischer’s statement said.


Louisville Mayor Signs Ban On LGBTQ Conversion Therapy Thursday, Oct 1 2020 


Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has signed an ordinance banning conversion therapy for minors, an anti-LGBTQ practice that has been discredited by health professionals.

Louisville is the second Kentucky city to ban conversion therapy. Covington passed a similar ordinance earlier in the year.

Fischer said the measure will protect minors from serious physical and psychological harm.


With Decision Looming, Mayor Greg Fischer Announces Countywide Curfew Wednesday, Sep 23 2020 


Mayor Greg Fischer is implementing a 9 p.m. curfew countywide for the next 72 hours, he announced during a press conference Wednesday in advance of a decision in the Breonna Taylor case.

Fischer asked for a “peaceful, lawful” response to whatever decision the grand jury and Attorney General Daniel Cameron announce this afternoon. But he said the curfew will be in effect from 9 p.m. until 6:30 a.m., with exceptions for those seeking medical care, going to work or attending worship services.

“We don’t know what today or tomorrow is going to bring us, but we all obviously have a choice on how we’re going to be responding here, and urge everybody to choose peaceful, lawful protest,” he said.


Louisville Mayor Declares State Of Emergency Due To ‘Potential For Civil Unrest’ Tuesday, Sep 22 2020 


Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer declared a state of emergency Tuesday pending an announcement by Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron regarding the Breonna Taylor case.

Cameron is expected to say publicly whether officers who shot and killed Taylor in her home on March 13 will face criminal charges. While the time and date of such an announcement are not known, the closure of federal buildings, downtown traffic restrictions and other measures indicate it may come soon.

Fischer said in a press release that he does not know when Cameron will address the issue.


Breonna Taylor Deal Promises Reform LMPD Said They Did Years Ago Tuesday, Sep 22 2020 


Carrie Cochran, Karen Rodriguez, Maia Rosenfeld and Maren Machles of Newsy co-reported this story. 

As part of its historic, $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, Louisville has agreed to implement several major police reforms, including creating an early warning system to identify officer behavioral trends to prevent misconduct.


Breonna Taylor Deal Promises Reform LMPD Said They Did Years Ago Tuesday, Sep 22 2020 


Carrie Cochran, Karen Rodriguez, Maia Rosenfeld and Maren Machles of Newsy co-reported this story. 

As part of its historic, $12 million settlement with the family of Breonna Taylor, Louisville has agreed to implement several major police reforms, including creating an early warning system to identify officer behavioral trends to prevent misconduct.

This is not the first time the city has made such a promise. In the wake of police shootings and as a response to critical audits, the Louisville Metro Police Department has frequently asserted that it already has such a system, or is on the cusp of implementing one.

The current LMPD policy manual says it is actively using such a system. But it’s not, a joint investigation by Newsy and the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting has found.

Despite several promises since at least 2015, the department has never actually activated it, according to LMPD spokesperson Lamont Washington.

Early warning systems can be one of the most powerful tools of police reform, experts say, if implemented properly. The idea is simple, proponents of these systems say: Most police misconduct comes from a few officers. By tracking officer activity, departments can identify trouble spots early and either fix them — with extra training, counseling or discipline — or remove the officer before something much worse happens.

Louisville Metro Council President David James was outraged to hear Mayor Greg Fischer announce the roll out of the early warning system in the settlement press conference.

“That is something that the police department had promoted years ago, and said that they had implemented,” James said. “So I find out today that they had not actually implemented that.”

LMPD declined an interview request, but said in an email that “budget cuts and constriction” had prevented them from fully implementing the system.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office said efforts to implement an early warning system were suspended “as the department considered a broader officer wellness program” that incorporates early warning aspects.

James said this revelation raises a lot of questions for him about what other promises haven’t been upheld.

“I, for some reason, felt like if you … said that that’s what you’re doing, then it would seem like that’s what you would do,” James said.

Now, with the legal settlement, the department can no longer delay moving forward. But an early warning system only works in a department that wants it to work, said Samuel Walker, a professor emeritus at the University of Nebraska Omaha who wrote a series of reports on early warning systems for the Department of Justice in the early 2000s.

When an agency waits until a settlement requires them to activate its early warning system, “it’s a gigantic red flag,” said Walker.

How early warning systems work

Early warning systems review officer discipline, citizen complaints, administrative incident reports, attendance, commendations, driving records and other factors to proactively identify areas of concern within a department.

Once an officer has a certain number of infractions — as determined by each individual department — the software sends an alert, flagging the trend. Supervisors can then respond however they see fit: more training, counseling, or, if necessary, disciplinary action.

LMPD has some of this framework in place. Since at least 2009, the city has contracted with CI Technologies, a company that distributes policing software, including a program called IAPro that LMPD says in reports it uses for internal affairs management.

IAPro centralizes all the documentation of officer activity, like administrative incident reports and personnel files. But in addition to gathering these records, IAPro also has the ability to use that information to send early warning alerts about officer behavior. LMPD has chosen not to activate that aspect of the software before now.

Brett Hankison

Sam Aguiar, an attorney for Taylor’s family, believes Officer Brett Hankison might have been flagged by an early warning system for excessive use of force incidents — if LMPD was using one.

Hankison is one of the three officers who shot and killed Taylor at her apartment in March while serving a “no-knock” search warrant. He was fired in June.

Every police department sets its thresholds for alerts differently, and there’s no way to know what would have happened had LMPD been formally alerted to these trends.

But if Hankison was a police officer in Kentucky’s second-largest city, he would have been flagged repeatedly.

Lexington has had an early warning system for its police department since 2004. By the metrics the Lexington police use, Hankison’s use of force record alone would have triggered an alert at least four times in nine years.

But Taylor’s case is not the first time LMPD has been made aware of an officer with multiple infractions that an early warning system might have caught.

Conrad: LMPD ‘sort of’ has a system

In Beau Gadegaard’s first 18 months as an LMPD officer, he racked up at least ten use-of-force reports. His supervisor deemed them all justified, but he was repeatedly chastised for failing to turn on his body camera.

Brett Gadegaard

He also was found to be at fault in an on-duty car accident, and was investigated and later suspended for one day for performing a warrantless search on a group of Black teens playing basketball in west Louisville.

For just these instances, if Gadegaard had been a police officer down the road in Lexington, he would have triggered four alerts in six months.

Then, on August 8, 2016, Gadegaard and two other officers responded to a domestic dispute call. When they arrived on the scene, they encountered Darnell Wicker holding a saw.

The officers shouted for Wicker to drop the saw. When he didn’t, Gadegaard and Officer Taylor Banks opened fire, shooting him 14 times. He died at the scene.

Cincinnati-based civil rights attorney Alphonse Gerhardstein sued LMPD on behalf of Wicker’s family. He recalls being surprised that LMPD’s early warning system hadn’t flagged Gadegaard.

“[He was] someone who had … a lot of curious complaints around his conduct and someone who had repeatedly failed to turn on his body cam when he was involved in a use of force,” Gerhardstein said. “These are the types of things that an employee tracking system picks up.”

A screenshot from LMPD’s response to its 2015 traffic stop audit.

It’s not surprising that Gerhardstein believed LMPD had an early warning system.

In response to audits of traffic stops in 2014, 2015-2016 and 2017, LMPD said that it utilized an early warning system software, and was in the process of developing a new system.

In 2015, in a use-of-force policy review, LMPD said it was in the process of implementing an early warning system “for the purpose of identifying work‐related problematic behavioral patterns among officers.”

The agency’s own policy manual says it is currently using such a system.

But when Gerhardstein sat down to depose Conrad in 2017, the truth came out.

“You have an early warning system at the LMPD, right?” Gerhardstein asked.

Conrad responded: “Sort of.”

Gerhardstein asked what “sort of” meant.

“We don’t have one that is operational,” Conrad replied. “It’s referred to in our policy…it has never been operational.”

Conrad’s 2017 deposition

Gerhardstein recalled the way Conrad’s admission “bonked me over the head.”

“It just clicked that one of the reasons my client was killed was because the man who shot him had never been properly flagged by this very simple tool,” Gerhardstein said in a recent interview. “This department just hadn’t gotten around to implementing it.”

Conrad said in the deposition that Louisville had never implemented its early warning system because leadership couldn’t agree on the thresholds to trigger an alert. He told Gerhardstein that he had since put together a working group to resolve the issue.

“I am told that we are close to having it up and running,” Conrad said.

That was three years — and at least 15 fatal police shootings — ago.

Will it actually be implemented this time?

In the end, Darnell Wicker’s death resulted in a three-day suspension for Gadegaard for failing to turn on his body camera. In February of this year, that suspension was reduced to a written reprimand. He is still employed by LMPD.

Gerhardstein ended up settling the Wicker family’s lawsuit for $1.25 million in late 2019. He said he tried to negotiate for reforms as part of the deal, but nothing came of it.

Just three months later, Breonna Taylor was shot and killed. Her name became a rallying cry, and her family’s civil lawsuit against the city garnered national headlines.

Sam Aguiar, one of the lawyers for Taylor’s family, was also Gerhardstein’s co-counsel on the Wicker case. When he realized that they’d have a chance to push for reforms, Aguiar said one of the first things that came to mind was the early warning system.

“It could have identified Hankison, or Beau Gadegaard, and they’re just sitting on this tool,” Aguiar said.

Now, the city will be forced to implement it. The system will be monitored by the yet-to-be-created Office of Inspector General, and a consulting firm will offer recommendations on how to improve it.

It’s not clear how the city will overcome the roadblocks that have hampered progress in the past, like agreeing on thresholds for alerts and pushback from the police union.

LMPD spokesperson Lamont Washington said the local Fraternal Order of Police chapter was worried the system created “a paper trail of perceived ‘potential’ issues about an officer.” FOP President Ryan Nichols did not respond to request for comment.

Metro Council President James would love to see this project finally come to fruition. But he’s incredibly frustrated that it took the death of Breonna Taylor and others to force the agency to do something he thought they did years ago.

“I just wonder what types of things could have been avoided had that actually been implemented over the years,” James said.


Contact Eleanor Klibanoff at

This story was produced in collaboration with Newsy.

The post Breonna Taylor Deal Promises Reform LMPD Said They Did Years Ago appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

Metro Council Republicans Call For No-Confidence Vote On Mayor Greg Fischer Monday, Aug 17 2020 


The Metro Council’s Republican caucus is calling for a vote of no-confidence in Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.

In a resolution filed Monday, the seven-member group laid out a list of complaints related to the Mayor’s administration and local police and sought the Democratic mayor’s resignation.

The council members called for systemic change in the Louisville Metro Police Department, citing a rise in homicide cases this year, and criticized what they see as a lack of transparency from the Mayor’s office regarding the cases of Breonna Taylor and David McAtee. Taylor was killed by LMPD officers executing a warrant in March; McAtee was killed June 1 by a National Guard bullet after both National Guard and LMPD officers shot at him.


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 |

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 

LMPD Firing Brett Hankison, One Of Three Officers In Breonna Taylor Shooting Friday, Jun 19 2020 

Mayor Greg Fischer announced Friday morning that Brett Hankison is getting fired after the chief found he “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he shot 10 rounds in Breonna Taylor’s apartment.

Kate Howard |

Hankison was one of three officers who has been on paid administrative leave since the March 13 shooting, when Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot and killed by plainclothes LMPD officers while they were executing a search warrant.

Until Friday, city officials have said action couldn’t be taken against the officers who killed Breonna Taylor until investigations were complete. But on Friday, Fischer said interim chief Robert Schroeder is initiating termination proceedings.

Read Schroeder’s pre-termination letter here.

Fischer said he and the chief couldn’t discuss the decision. But the LMPD immediately released the pre-termination letter Schroeder sent to Hankison Friday, saying he was being terminated for blindly fired 10 rounds in Taylor’s apartment, creating a “substantial danger of death and serious injury” to Taylor and her neighbors. The letter doesn’t directly address whether any of Hankison’s gunshots hit Taylor.

Hankison’s conduct “has severely damaged the image of our department we have established with our community,” Schroeder wrote in the letter.

Kate Howard |

Sam Aguiar, one of the Taylor family’s lawyers, told WDRB “it’s about time.”

“I hope to God he’s never back working our streets again,” Aguiar told WDRB.

Hankison was one of three officers who served the warrant at Taylor’s house and one of at least two who fired weapons. No announcements were made about the other two officers, Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly and Officer Myles Cosgrove, who are still on administrative paid leave.

Mattingly was shot in the leg by a bullet fired by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker. Walker was initially charged with attempted murder and assault, but Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine announced in late May he was dropping the charges, pending further investigation by the FBI and Kentucky Attorney General’s office.

Fischer Said He Can’t Talk About Firing

Fischer blamed state law in saying he couldn’t elaborate or take any questions from the media during the briefing, which lasted less than a minute.

“Both the chief and I are precluded from talking about what brought us to that moment,” Fischer said.

He referred questions about that to county attorney Mike O’Connell. O’Connell’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The law Fischer cited states that, when a police officer has been charged with violating departmental rules or regulations, “no public statements shall be made concerning the alleged violation by any person or persons of the consolidated local government or the police officer so charged, until final disposition of the charges.”

Last week, Fischer announced that a task force would investigate two women’s claims of sexual assault against Hankison. Those allegations weren’t mentioned in the letter.

What Happens Next?

In the letter to Hankison, Schoeder said he received the file from the Public Integrity Unit’s investigation on June 16 and found that he violated procedures governing obedience to rules and regulations and use of deadly force. According to the letter, Hankison fired into a covered area, where he couldn’t have verified whether anyone was an innocent person present or even posted a threat.

Hankison will be given the opportunity to meet with the chief, along with a union representative or lawyer, and provide any additional information or mitigating factors, the letter said. The date and time of that meeting are redacted.

Ryan Nichols, the president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment on Hankison’s termination. He said he was unaware of the chief’s decision until his saw it on the news.

Under state law, Hankison is allowed to appeal his firing. He has a 10-day window to submit a written notice to the police chief and the Louisville Metro Police Merit Board of his intention to appeal any disciplinary action taken against him. He also has the right to have an attorney present for the hearing, and to present evidence and confront any accusers.

The merit board can overturn disciplinary actions handed down by the police chief. Hankison himself was an elected representative for the FOP on the merit board, a role Fischer recently called on the FOP to terminate.

The board’s rulings can be appealed to the Circuit Court within thirty days.

Meanwhile, the FBI and the Kentucky Attorney General’s office are still investigating the events that led to Taylor’s death. On Friday, the FBI was at Taylor’s apartment on Springfield Drive “conducting judicially authorized activity.”

This story has been updated. Jacob Ryan contributed to this report.

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