Shawnee Park police shooting highlights arrest warrant policy gaps Wednesday, Jul 20 2022 

Shawnee Park Louisville police shooting crime scene.

Stephanie Wolf

Louisville police tape off the scene at Shawnee Park on the evening of July 10, 2022.

As the Louisville Metro Police Department continues investigating the officer-involved shooting at Shawnee Park last week, the department also faces scrutiny from community members who say officers endangered bystanders.

The Dirt Bowl basketball tournament drew hundreds of people to Shawnee Park on July 10. The games were over for the day when officers attempted to arrest 30-year-old Herbert Lee, who was wanted on multiple outstanding warrants, but some of the crowd still lingered. 

Lee allegedly ran from the police and shot at them, hitting one officer’s bulletproof vest, before they returned fire. Lee was shot in the “extremities,” according to LMPD officials, and has since been released from the hospital. He’s now being held on a $1 million cash bond and faces several charges, including attempted murder of a police officer.

“It’s gonna be in the back of my head till the day I die,” said Bruce Sweeney, who was at the scene and coaches a youth basketball team called the Breewayy Warriors, named in honor of Breonna Taylor

“There are kids out here. And they had to see this,” he said. “It sickens me.”

Police officials did not answer questions from KyCIR about their decision to engage Lee at the west Louisville park. 

But the incident highlights broader concerns about how LMPD serves warrants and what precautions officers should take to keep the public safe. KyCIR reviewed the department’s protocols for serving warrants and found no guidelines for how officers should handle arrests in a public setting.

The department’s standard operating procedures require officers to fill out a risk assessment form that is reviewed and approved by a commanding officer before executing a warrant inside a building or residence so officers can consider the safety of the building and weigh the risks of entering. However, the nearly 900-page document mentions nothing about approaching someone in a park, on the sidewalk, or in any public space where other people might be around. 

LMPD isn’t the only police department without a clear policy for handling situations like the one at Shawnee Park last week. But, according to a model arrest policy by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the location, timing and manner of an arrest should be planned carefully “to minimize the danger to officers, suspects and third parties.”

Kungu Njuguna, a policy strategist for ACLU Kentucky, said incidents like the Shawnee Park shooting only increase divides between police and the Black community, especially since this happened after the Dirt Bowl, an event with a longstanding history in the West End. 

“It adds to that generational trauma of distrust and the belief that the police aren’t here to protect us, they’re here to harm us,” he said.

Questions about accountability

LMPD officers gathered at Shawnee Park shortly before attempting to arrest Herbert Lee.

LMPD body camera footage

LMPD officers gathered at Shawnee Park shortly before attempting to arrest Herbert Lee.

The department is conducting an internal investigation of the Shawnee Park incident, despite a previous agreement that Kentucky State Police would investigate all of their officer-involved shootings. Louisville’s newly created Inspector General’s Office also announced an investigation into the shooting.

A department spokesperson said officers were patrolling the tournament when they recognized Lee, who at the time had about a dozen outstanding warrants against him, including theft of a firearm and possession of a handgun by a convicted felon. LMPD Chief Erika Shields said during a press interview shortly after the shooting that officers were “very judicial” to wait until the tournament had ended to serve the warrant. 

But Mike Lawlor, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of New Haven, said the officers’ decision to pursue Lee in the park was reckless. Unless the situation was urgent and the person presented an immediate danger to the public, he said LMPD should have waited.  

“The police knew or should have known this guy was carrying a firearm,” Lawlor said. “He had a track record of this. He had known convictions for it.”

If any bystanders had gotten hurt in the shootout, he said the city would likely have a lawsuit on its hands, “and the argument would be that you knew or should have known that it was likely innocent people would be injured here, yet your officers did it anyway.”

Lawlor said there should always be some type of accountability when it comes to serving warrants or pursuing suspects, despite the location. 

“More and more police departments are putting very severe restrictions on high-speed chases and no-knock warrants because they’re just a recipe for disaster,” he said. “Innocent people can get killed.”

Three months after Breonna Taylor was killed by police during a raid on her home in 2020, the Louisville Metro Council voted unanimously to ban no-knock warrants in the city. And this year LMPD reimplemented a policy to reduce deaths and injuries caused by vehicle police chases, after seeing a significant increase in bystander deaths and injuries.

The Shawnee Park shooting didn’t involve a no-knock warrant or a car chase and nobody died in the incident, but it still highlights concerns about when the pursuit of a suspect outweighs the risks — and how unclear protocols and risky decision-making have the potential to end in tragedy.

Community impact and distrust

On July 14, four days after the shooting, police officials released a partial and edited version of the body camera footage from the incident, saying the rest would be available “upon the completion of necessary reductions based on Kentucky open records law.” (Prior to 2020, it was LMPD policy to release body camera footage within 24 hours of a police shooting.)

That evening, activists gathered at the Carl Braden Memorial Center in the Parkland neighborhood for a press conference, where they expressed frustration about the incident – and skepticism about what police claim happened at Shawnee Park. 

“Louisville Metro Police Department, you have failed this city again,” said community activist Chris Will, commenting on the limited footage. “Why would you not show the interaction from the beginning right to the end?”

One activist at the gathering, who goes by A.B., questioned why officers chose to arrest Lee in a public place, “with women and children at a family event.”

“The police was there to protect us,” he said. “Not to add to our trauma to this community and our kids.”

Another activist, Jeff Compton, suggested that officers wouldn’t have approached the situation the same way if it happened in a white community.

“For them to chase him in the middle of the park with kids playing in a family environment … Would you guys do this if it was St. Matthews? Would you do it if it was in Georgetown?” he said. “No, you only want to do it in our communities.”

Editor’s Note: LMPD released full body camera footage of the Shawnee Park shooting on Wednesday, shortly before KyCIR published this story. 

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U of L student charged in Craig Greenberg shooting Tuesday, Feb 15 2022 

By Madelin Shelton — 

Quintez Brown, a 21-year old U of L student, has been charged with attempted murder and four counts of wanton endangerment for allegedly attempting to shoot Louisville mayoral candidate Craig Greenberg.

Police were called to the campaign headquarters of Greenberg around 10:15 a.m. Monday following reports of multiple gun shots. Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) said in a police report that Greenberg appeared to be the attempted target. Greenberg was not struck and no injuries were reported, but one of the bullets reportedly grazed the candidate’s clothing.

Brown was then found about a half-mile from the Story Avenue campaign office with a loaded 9mm magazine. According to the arrest report, he also possessed a drawstring bag containing a handgun, handgun case and additional magazines.

Brown is a former Opinion editor for The Louisville Cardinal and a former intern and columnist for The Courier-Journal. He also was a member of the MLK Scholars program here at U of L, a civil rights and racial justice activist and the founder 0f From Fields to Arena, an organization committed to providing political education and violence prevention training to youth engaged in hip-hop and athletics.

Brown made headlines last summer after being reported missing, leading to a city-wide search. He was found after nearly two weeks. In a statement released to the public, his family said, “We are asking for privacy and would appreciate everyone’s patience and support while we tend to the most immediate need, which is Quintez’s physical, mental and spiritual needs.”

Most recently, Brown announced his candidacy for Metro Council in District 5.

This is a breaking news story. It will be updated as information becomes available. 

Photo Courtesy // Louisville Metro Department of Corrections

The post U of L student charged in Craig Greenberg shooting appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

Louisville police hone in on bus stop shooting suspect Monday, Nov 1 2021 

Detectives with the Louisville Metro Police Department have identified two people they believe were involved in the fatal shooting of 16-year-old Tyree Smith.

Smith was killed at his school bus stop shortly after 6 a.m. on Sept. 22. Police officials have not yet announced any formal charges related to Smith’s murder.

In affidavits filed last month with the Office of the Jefferson Circuit Court Clerk, a detective listed two juveniles — naming a 15-year-old as a potential suspect. A 16-year-old was also named, but not listed as a suspect.

Juvenile court records are not publicly available. A police spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting is not naming the juveniles because it is unclear whether either has been charged with a crime. One hung up on a reporter when contacted Monday. The other could not be reached.

Smith’s murder sparked outrage across Louisville and reignited attention on the city’s efforts to address and respond to violent crime. Louisville Metro Police have reported more than 150 homicides this year, a tally on pace to be a record high before year’s end. More than 74% of those cases remain unsolved. 

Nearly 20 of this year’s homicide victims were juveniles, according to LMPD data.

[related_story]https://wfpl.org/community-remembers-tyree-smith-the-most-loving-person-ever/[/related_story]

Witnesses to Smith’s killing said a shooter pulled up to the bus stop at the darkened intersection of Dr. W. J. Hodge and W. Chestnut streets, got out of the vehicle and opened fire on the group of students waiting for their bus to Eastern High School.

‘A distinct connection’

Police used cell phone data and video surveillance to identify the two boys they believe are connected to the killing. 

A Jeep Cherokee used by the suspected shooter was found on fire by police in a St. Matthews apartment complex parking lot the day after the shooting. The Jeep had been reported stolen hours before Smith died.

A 15-year-old boy was captured on video footage getting into the same Jeep at an Okolona apartment complex about an hour before the shooting, according to three affidavits filed by LMPD Detective Kevin Carrillo.

The boy was seen on video carrying a two-liter bottle of orange Fanta, and police found a matching bottle in the Jeep, according to Carrillo. Police also found an empty 9 mm shell casing in the Jeep — which matched the shells found at the murder scene, according to the police affidavits.

The boy was interviewed by police in early September in relation to another homicide. He gave his cell phone number to police during that interview.

Cell data shows the boy’s phone connected with another person’s about a dozen times shortly before the shooting, with the last call at 4:51 a.m. — the same time the Jeep left the Okolona apartment complex, according to Carrillo.

Police then traced that cell phone — which belongs to someone whose identity is not listed in police documents — to the house where the Jeep was reportedly stolen, the apartment complex where the 15-year-old boy lived with his mother, the intersection where Smith was killed and the site where police found the burned-out Jeep the day after the shooting.

Carrillo said the data “verified and corroborated a distinct connection” with Smith’s murder.

[related_story]https://kycir.org/2021/10/20/ky-supreme-court-to-decide-if-police-need-a-warrant-for-real-time-phone-tracking/[related_story]

On Oct. 13, Louisville police tracked the cell phone in real time and a detective conducted a traffic stop on a vehicle “traveling in the same path consistent with the path of the device,” during which a 16-year-old boy tried to flee. Police then took the boy, who is the second person named in the affidavit, into custody. They seized his phone and a second phone and have obtained a search warrant to collect data from both. It is unclear if the boy is still in custody.

In the car, police found two guns. One was a 9 mm.

Contact Jacob Ryan at 502-814-6559 or at jryan@kycir.org.

The post Louisville police hone in on bus stop shooting suspect appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

The model city: Inside LMPD’s failure to reform itself Friday, Oct 22 2021 

J. Tyler Franklin

LMPD SRT officers and protesters in late May 2020

When hundreds of people took to the streets in Louisville, Ky. in May 2020, they were protesting the police killing of Breonna Taylor — and a police department they felt unfairly targeted and mistreated Black residents.

The protests stretched for months and helped launch a national reckoning about race, policing and public safety in America.

This wasn’t supposed to happen in Louisville.

These protests reflected the chasm of distrust between the Louisville Metro Police Department and the people they police, and followed five years of broken promises, unheeded warnings, and failed efforts to build a better relationship.

In 2015, Louisville embarked on an ambitious plan to reform its police department. The Department of Justice offered Louisville concrete recommendations, grants and coaching. The LMPD said it had overhauled training, changed policies and completed hundreds of reform initiatives. City leaders were honored at the White House in 2016 for these efforts.

Louisville portrayed itself as a model city that would show the rest of the nation how to maintain public safety while building community relationships and trust.

In May 2020, that facade came crumbling down as the nation learned what many in Louisville already knew: LMPD had not meaningfully changed how it policed the city.

How did Louisville go from a national leader in policing to an epicenter of the movement for racial justice in the United States? Listen now and subscribe in your favorite podcast app.

The Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and Newsy spent the last year reviewing thousands of pages of documents and interviewing dozens of people to understand how Louisville went from a national leader in policing reform to the face of a national movement protesting the police.

The investigation found that Louisville took a “checkbox” approach to reform, focusing on attainable or easily documented reforms rather than actually changing how they policed. The LMPD claimed to have implemented some changes that never happened, or made little difference. At the same time, the department invested in controversial violent crime units and encouraged officers to aggressively patrol certain Black neighborhoods.

When demonstrations broke out last May, the department relied on tactics that they’d specifically been warned against using. By the end of that first weekend of protests, another Black person was dead after a shooting involving LMPD and the National Guard.

Eleanor Klibanoff

Mayor Greg Fischer hugs David McAtee’s mother at the scene of his shooting on June 1, 2020.

Longtime LMPD Chief Steve Conrad was fired after that shooting in June 2020 when it came to light that the LMPD officers who fired their weapons hadn’t activated their body cameras. Conrad did not respond to requests for comment and LMPD did not make current department leadership available for an interview. In a statement, they said the department successfully implemented reforms in some areas but faced challenges in others, due to changing demands from the community, economic issues and evolving technology.

LMPD spokesperson Beth Ruoff noted the department’s current command staff is “committed to evolving and improving in those areas where it readily acknowledges improvement is needed.”

Checked boxes, but little change

More than a month after a grand jury decided not to indict the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, President Barack Obama spoke about the need for change.

“Ferguson laid bare a problem that is not unique to St. Louis or that area, and is not unique to our time,” Obama said in December 2014. “That is a simmering distrust that exists between too many police departments and too many communities of color.”

In Louisville, that tension was felt most acutely in the city’s West End. The West End is predominately Black, and after decades of segregation and disinvestment, parts of it are extremely poor — about 40% of people in the West End live below the poverty line, compared to just 14% in the whole county.

LMPD data show that parts of the West End have high rates of violent crime, and the police department has admitted to targeting some of these neighborhoods with aggressive patrols.

Black residents are more likely to be stopped, cited and arrested citywide than white residents, according to a January 2021 audit from consulting firm Hillard Heintze commissioned by the city in the wake of the protests.

Nearly half of all Black respondents surveyed for the audit said they don’t trust LMPD.

This was the sort of “simmering distrust” that Obama had hoped to help cities address. His administration put together a policing reform task force, which consulted experts, activists, community leaders and law enforcement across the country to produce a 116-page guidebook on “21st Century Policing.” The report detailed how local police departments could build community relationships, gain legitimacy in the eyes of the people they serve and fight crime without burning trust.

Louisville city and department officials were immediately on board. In 2016, they were invited to the White House as one of 15 cities that were going to model 21st Century Policing to the rest of the nation.

In Louisville, Conrad called the 21st Century Policing report a “gift of best practices” that could change the way LMPD operated.

“My hope is that together we will not only make our communities safer, but we will improve the relationships between police and the community we serve moving forward,” Conrad said in 2016.

Over a series of community forums hosted by the department, Conrad acknowledged his department’s role in the broken relationship between the police and Louisville’s Black community. He said things would be different going forward: everyone in Louisville would be treated with dignity, respect and fairness by the police, no matter who they were or what neighborhood they lived in.

Officers were going to be trained on having a “guardian,” rather than a “warrior” mindset, and seeking to build relationships. LMPD was going to focus on community policing — identifying problems and implementing solutions alongside the people most affected.

“When I heard it, it was like a breath of fresh air,” said Bishop Dennis V. Lyons, a pastor at Gospel Missionary Church in the West End. “We [are] now going to get some justice with the police.”

Bishop Dennis Lyons, smiling, wearing a suit and tie, an embroidered hat and a mask around his chin

Bishop Dennis V. Lyons

Lyons, a longtime civil rights leader, used his church bus to bring people to one of these forums. He even got his own copy of the task force report, which he still has, as tattered and torn as a well-loved teddy bear.

By the time LMPD hosted these forums in 2016, the department had already overhauled its training curriculum and revised policies and procedures to better align with 21st Century Policing values. The department created a community policing unit, and started posting crime data online as part of their transparency efforts.

Lyons felt like they’d just hosted those forums so they could document their community involvement efforts. He has come to see that this was indicative of the department’s whole approach to reform.

“The police were always ready…for us to attend their seminars, but they were never willing to attend our seminars,” Lyons said. “It became one-sided, still, became that same mentality of master-slave.”

Lyons also felt the department focused on good PR. An example was the Clergy Police Academy, a one-day workshop the department started hosting in 2016 to educate religious leaders about LMPD. Lyons signed up pastors hoping the police would call on them to help build community relationships.

“Never one time [did they] call that team together,” he said.

In a recent statement to KyCIR and Newsy, an LMPD spokesperson said they did call on the clergy on different occasions, and hoped to reinvigorate that effort going forward.

By February 2017, less than two years after the 21st Century Policing report was released, Louisville claimed in internal documents that they had completed 351 different reform initiatives.

The department did make some meaningful changes: they equipped most officers with body cameras, and according to a 2020 study from the University of Cincinnati and the International Association of Chief of Police, officer use-of-force reports have declined since 2015.

But many of the promised reforms never happened. Several people with knowledge of LMPD’s reform efforts, including Lyons, described LMPD’s approach to 21st Century Policing the same way — checkbox reform.

“They checked a bunch of boxes to say that they were 21st Century, and they put it on a wall, and the mayor had a big ceremony,” said Metro Council President and former LMPD detective David James. “And we hadn’t changed anything.”

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In its 21st Century Policing documentation, LMPD claimed to have an early warning system, a tool experts say can be one of the most important parts of a police department’s accountability system. But KyCIR/Newsy found that they never actually implemented it.

Additionally, 21st Century Policing said law enforcement should require that a third party investigate police shootings.

LMPD marked that recommendation as “already implemented,” even as the department’s internal investigative unit continued to handle those cases. They claimed that the unit’s capacity to adequately handle investigations was “greater than any external capacity.”

The checkbox mentality was felt inside the department, too, as officers say they struggled to keep up with the flurry of new initiatives, training requirements and policy changes.

“You can’t come into work and sit down at a computer for an hour and a half and fully read all of these policies…while runs are holding,” said Dave Mutchler, a retired LMPD sergeant and press secretary for the police union. “What you run into is [officers] click and move on. ‘I’ll look at it later.’”

LMPD changed its use of force policy 10 times in five years, according to a recent audit, and failed to properly train officers on these changes.

Former LMPD deputy chief Michael Sullivan, now a deputy commissioner at the Baltimore Police Department, helped oversee LMPD’s implementation of 21st Century Policing. He acknowledged in an interview with KyCIR/Newsy that the department didn’t do enough to determine whether new policies were translating into meaningful change.

“You can have the best policies in the world,” he said. “But if you don’t know and can’t say with confidence that this policy is being followed…you can’t honestly say that that policy has changed anything.”

‘The house is on fire’

While documenting hundreds of reforms on paper, the department continued to invest in a style of policing that had the potential to damage trust.

Back when Louisville was implementing 21st Century Policing, the department wasn’t just battling a crisis of legitimacy. They were also facing a homicide surge. Louisville had 117 homicides in 2016, the deadliest year they had seen in decades.

Sullivan conceded that this took the department’s eye off of reform.

“When the house is on fire, you have to put it out before you start rebuilding it,” Sullivan said.

In 2016, the department moved resources away from neighborhood beats and into citywide violent crime units. Even as homicides declined over the next few years, LMPD continued to aggressively patrol parts of the West End.

Sullivan said the department did see reductions in crime.

“With that, the next question is, in Louisville, what was the cost of that crime reduction?” Sullivan said. “Was there a loss of community trust?”

Tae-Ahn Lea was exactly the kind of person LMPD might have wanted to forge a relationship with.

Tae-Ahn Lea in 2019

In 2018, he was 18, a young Black man who grew up in the West End, had no criminal record, and said he had no issue with the police.

That changed when he left a gas station with a slushie — and was promptly pulled over by an LMPD officer for a wide turn.

LMPD detectives Kevin Crawford and Gabe Hellard got Lea out of the car and patted him down. When a detective said the police dog registered a positive indication on Lea’s car, they handcuffed him. The traffic stop took nearly half an hour and found no drugs.

During the stop, Hellard pointed out that Lea’s heart was racing and he’d gotten his mother on the phone.

“When you do all that, that’s the same thing people do when they’re trying to hide something from the police,” Hellard said.

Lea later testified to Metro Council that he was scared and just trying to follow the precautions his mother had taught him “due to recent videos and encounters with other Black men and officers, shootings and everything like that.”

Hellard described the stop as a small inconvenience for Lea — and just another day at work for these officers.

“We deal with violent crime all day every day,” Hellard said. “We’re going to stop 30 more people after you.”

Crawford and Hellard did not respond to requests for comment. But Crawford later said in a deposition that he believed Lea was involved in criminal activity because he was slow to pull over and when asked if he had any weapons, he didn’t tell the officers there was a baseball bat in the car. Body camera footage shows Lea putting on his blinker to pull over immediately after the sirens start.

Hellard told LMPD investigators that Lea was “verbally aggressive” and created a safety issue for the officers when he answered the phone call from his mother.

The detectives that stopped Lea were with the 9th Mobile Division, a citywide violent crime unit created in 2015. This unit became known for aggressive traffic stops, some of which generated lawsuits or resulted in evidence being thrown out by judges after the searches were ruled unconstitutional.

KyCIR and Newsy found that 9th Mobile officers were at least 2.9 times as likely to be investigated for policy violations as the rest of the force.

According to documentation of LMPD’s 21st Century Policing efforts, 9th Mobile was going to gain the community’s trust by issuing citations rather than making arrests “whenever possible.”

But 9th Mobile was charged with making the city safer by getting the most violent criminals off the streets, Sullivan said.

“That doesn’t include…throwing a wide net and scooping up people that don’t need to be scooped up and brought into the criminal justice system on low-level offenses,” Sullivan said. “That’s the one thing that doesn’t build trust.”

But the LMPD was relying on this type of policing amid the homicide surge. Conrad called 9th Mobile the “the tip of the spear” of the LMPD’s crime fighting strategy.

These tactics weren’t limited to this one unit. At a 2019 Metro Council hearing, Councilmember Bill Hollander read aloud from an email he’d received from LMPD Major Eric Johnson. Hollander said Johnson wrote that he’d directed his officers in parts of the West End to “take as much enforcement as possible” and “aggressively patrol” those neighborhoods.

Three years before this hearing, Johnson had gone to the White House as part of the team that implemented 21st Century Policing in Louisville. And now, he was defending policing tactics the department knew had the potential to violate trust.

That’s what happened with Tae-Ahn Lea, who left that traffic stop with a citation that was dismissed in court. He has a federal civil rights lawsuit pending against LMPD leadership and the officers who pulled him over. He declined an interview request through his lawyer.

Lea told the Metro Council in 2019 that he’d grown up believing that if you don’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about with the police.

“This experience has definitely changed my view,” he said. “That’s obviously not true in this situation.”

After that hearing, Conrad changed LMPD’s traffic stop policy, specifying that merely being nervous or in a high-crime area did not justify getting drivers out of their car or handcuffing them.

Understaffing leaves little time for community policing

While aggressively combatting the homicide surge, LMPD continued to promote its commitment to 21st Century Policing.

In 2016, the department used a federal grant to hire 10 officers to create a Community Policing Unit.

These officers handed out Christmas presents and books to kids, created a mentorship program for young girls and brought “DJ Justice” — an LMPD officer who moonlighted as a DJ — out to community events.

Laurie O. Robinson, professor emerita at George Mason University and co-chair of the 21st Century Policing task force, said creating a community policing unit contradicts the report, which intentionally notes that the responsibility of community policing should not be placed on one designated unit.

“Community policing has to be…the culture of the entire department,” she said. “It’s not setting up one unit that has five people on bicycles riding around.”

LMPD leadership was portraying this community policing effort as a full-time, full-department initiative. Conrad said in July 2016 that the department had documented more than a thousand times that year that officers had gotten out of their cars to talk with community members. But that comes to about one interaction per officer.

Former LMPD Sgt. Kevin Trees

Officers wanted to have the time to get out of their cars and build community relationships, according to former LMPD Sergeant Kevin Trees. A recent audit found that 70% of LMPD officers surveyed said they believe LMPD’s role should be to build and sustain collaborative community relationships.

But with low staffing and rising gun violence, Trees said the department didn’t make that possible.

“We simply do not have the manpower to be able to get out on the streets and make the runs and get with the community and just be available, for anything,” said Trees, who retired in 2019 after 20 years with LMPD, most of it in the West End. “We just don’t have the time anymore.”

For much of the last decade, LMPD has had around 1,200 sworn officers on staff — roughly the same number of officers as was budgeted for in 2004, even as homicides have surged and the city’s population has crept up.

Greg Fischer during an interview with KyCIR/Newsy

Louisville has struggled to recruit and retain officers, due in part to low salaries. Last summer, officers were given a significant raise in a short term contract, bringing starting salaries to $49,000. Taking inflation into account, that’s roughly the same starting salary the department offered in 2004.

And starting salaries at LMPD are still much less than in similar sized cities. In Cincinnati, for example, officers start at just over $65,000 a year — a third more than in Louisville.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said in an interview earlier this year that Louisville’s budget is “lean” compared to comparable cities.

“I would always like to have more money,” Fischer said. “But so the question then becomes, how do you balance what you have with public safety, with libraries, with trash pickup, with economic development, and all these other activities?”

Officers and community members say these low salaries come at a real cost.

Submitted

Shameka Parrish-Wright

“I don’t have a problem with paying them well,” said Louisville civil rights activist and mayoral candidate Shameka Parrish-Wright. “I don’t want no officer who feels underpaid patrolling my communities, because you’re going to come with the attitude, you’re going to be upset…you need to know that your job matters.”

But Parrish-Wright said, in return, the department needs to hold all officers accountable when they engage in misconduct.

Without that, she said, Louisville has seen this chasm of mistrust between police and Black communities only grow.

LMPD’s legitimacy in the eyes of the community had been badly damaged in recent years. Three officers were convicted of various charges after being accused of sexually abusing minors in the department’s Youth Explorer program. Several traffic stops, including Tae-Ahn Lea’s, sparked outrage.

For several years, it felt like the kindling was piling up — and all it would take was a spark to set the city ablaze.

Protests show LMPD missed the message

On March 13, 2020, in the middle of the night, a group of LMPD officers gathered to serve a no-knock search warrant on the apartment of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor. When they busted down her door, her boyfriend fired a shot at them and they returned fire, killing Taylor in her hallway.

Protests broke out more than two months later, hours after the Courier Journal released Taylor’s boyfriend’s 911 call and days after a Minneapolis Police officer murdered George Floyd. That night launched a months-long movement that showed the world just how far LMPD had fallen from the promises they’d made years prior.

Hundreds of people gathered downtown, chanting, singing and marching. As night fell, the police and protesters began to clash. Protesters surrounded police cars and the city later said it looked like they were trying to get the officers out of the cars. Police were in riot gear, using sticks and shields as they marched on the crowds.

Ryan Van Velzer

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

Around 11:30 p.m., seven people were shot from within the crowd. In the chaos, someone set off fireworks. People were running and screaming. The police responded with flash-bangs, pepper balls and tear gas.

This incident seemed to set the stage for the rest of the weekend. The vast majority of protesters were just peacefully trying to have their voices heard. But each night, some took things a step further — shattering windows, lighting trash cans on fire, and throwing fireworks. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail that caught an officers’ pant leg on fire. The city said police officers were shot at several times. There was vandalism and burglary at stores downtown.

As the protests overwhelmed the police, they relied on crowd control techniques that 21st Century Policing specifically warned against using.

21st Century Policing emphasizes taking a demilitarized approach to mass demonstrations. Experts who testified to the task force cautioned against using tear gas or bringing rifles or armored vehicles to protests, all things LMPD did that first weekend.

LMPD received some of this advice firsthand when Ron Davis, the executive director of the 21st Century Policing task force, visited in 2016. Davis declined an interview request. But Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, then-executive director of the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, remembers Davis’s warning.

Chief Steve Conrad, center, speaks during a 2016 press conference. Behind is Rashaad Abdur-Rahman and Ron Davis of the COPS office.

“What stuck out to me and I’ll probably never forget, is that he specifically spoke about … protests, and how police need to stop using tanks and tear gas and rubber bullets and riot shields and billy clubs,” Abdur-Rahman said. “He was like, ‘You’ve got to stop doing that stuff. Because we have seen in Ferguson how this escalated situations and makes things worse.’”

LMPD used tear gas every night for the first five nights; two weeks into the protests, the department changed its policy to require the chief or his designee to approve use of tear gas.

The Kentucky State Police and National Guard came to assist LMPD, and the Mayor instituted a citywide curfew.

Ryan Van Velzer

Carmen Jones shows an injury she said is from being struck by a pepper ball round prior to her arrest.

Officers were armed with pepper ball guns, which LMPD policy says should be fired at the ground or above the crowd, rather than directly at people. But officers were seen shooting people with the less-than-lethal munitions at close range, from vantage points above the crowd, and at identified members of the media.

LMPD Officer Katie Crews shared on Facebook a photo from the Courier Journal of a young woman offering her a flower the first night of protests; Crews wrote in a Facebook post that the girl was “doing a lot more than offering flowers.”

“I hope the pepper balls that she got lit up with a little later on hurt,” Crews wrote. “Come back and get ya some more ole girl, I’ll be on the line again tonight.”

Crews did not respond to a request for comment.

On the fourth night of protests, after another night of tear gas, pepper balls and mass arrests by LMPD, downtown was mostly quiet. LMPD officials later said they got intelligence that protesters may have been planning to regroup in the West End.

Crews was part of a group of LMPD officers and Guardsmen who went to 26th and Broadway, a well-known and rowdy intersection featuring a nightclub, a gas station and a barbecue restaurant called Yaya’s, owned by David McAtee.

It wasn’t a protest, but it was a curfew violation, so the police started ordering people to leave. Some people ran into Yaya’s Barbecue, and Crews approached the restaurant. She fired pepper balls, at least one of which hit McAtee’s niece, who was standing in the doorway of the restaurant.

In this still from surveillance video, David McAtee (at top) is leaning out the door after the people in the foreground rushed in.

“She was standing — I don’t wanna say in an aggressive manner, but as a manner that she was not gonna go inside,” Crews later told investigators. “After giving verbal commands, I did shoot more balls in her direction.””

Amid the chaos, McAtee leaned out the door and fired two shots. Crews, another officer and two Guardsmen fired back.

McAtee, 53, was struck once in the chest and killed by a Guardsman’s bullet.

McAtee’s death was a shock to the city. He had been known for feeding the police for free, in an effort to do exactly what the city had said for years they wanted to do — build a relationship between the police and the West End.

Crews, another LMPD officer and two Guardsmen who fired their weapons were cleared of criminal wrongdoing.

Bishop Dennis V. Lyons’ funeral home prepared McAtee’s body for the funeral, dressing him in a crisp, white suit, laying him in a black coffin, tucking his long braids neatly under his head.

Just five years after he’d optimistically attended those 21st Century Policing forums, Lyons stood behind a pulpit during McAtee’s service, trying to put into words the human toll of this city’s broken promises.

He harkened back to 2015, when the newspaper proudly touted LMPD’s commitment to reform.

“Here we are five years later with the same caption: ‘Police call for reform of the police department,’” he said.

Lyons offered a grim warning to the city.

“As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, we’ll keep getting what we’re getting.”

 

The answer is still 21st Century Policing

Louisville today is facing even greater challenges than what the city experienced in 2016.

In 2020, the city had 173 homicides, a nearly 50% increase from the previous high. This year is on track to surpass 2020. A recent audit called LMPD a “department in crisis” and found that 75% of officers would leave if they could.

And the chasm between the police and the community seems wider than ever.

Despite all this, Mayor Fischer says he has “never been more optimistic” about the city’s future.

“The opportunity coming out of this is to be a model city in terms of police reform, police community legitimacy, co-production of safety with the police and the community, and then racial equity as well,” Fischer said. “That’s our goal. That’s what I’m going to continue to work on until my last day in office.”

Fischer said he regretted not auditing the department’s reform efforts more closely. But he doesn’t see the events of 2020 as an indictment of the city’s past attempts at reform.

“Things happen in life, no matter how perfect you are,” he said. “No matter how hard you try, it’s things outside of your control.”

Fischer, a term-limited Democrat, will leave office in early January 2023. His pick to lead the police department, former Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields, is a strong indication that he hopes the city will remain committed to 21st Century Policing.

Chelsea Ketchum

LMPD Chief Erika Shields

Back in 2016, Atlanta was also chosen by the Obama Department of Justice to model 21st Century Policing for the rest of the country.

LMPD did not make Shields available for an interview, but she spoke with a reporter briefly after a recent event. She said she thinks Atlanta had success with 21st Century Policing, and proposed a greater focus going forward on use-of-force training and transparency.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “They need to come out with a 2.0…A lot has changed in the last six years.”

Both Fischer and Shields have pointed to the numerous promises Louisville has made in the wake of the Breonna Taylor shooting as evidence of the city’s progress.

But KyCIR and Newsy found that LMPD considered many of these reforms back when they were first rolling out 21st Century Policing.

The city has now asked the Kentucky State Police to investigate LMPD shootings, and created a more significant civilian review apparatus. As part of a $12 million settlement with Taylor’s family, Fischer also agreed to finally activate the early warning system for officers and offer housing credits to encourage officers to live in low-income areas of the city, mostly in the West End.

But even now, years after they were first considered, these more recent promises are falling short. The state police investigations have proven less transparent than LMPD’s. The state legislature didn’t grant the civilian review board subpoena power, so it’s not as strong as initially hoped. No officers have taken advantage of the housing credits, and the early warning system still hasn’t been activated.

There is one notable difference now. In April 2021, five years after Louisville city officials were lauded by the Department of Justice for their policing reform efforts, the same federal agency opened a civil rights investigation into the city government and police department.

If that investigation concludes that LMPD has engaged in a pattern or practice of violating its citizens’ civil rights, the city would likely be put under a consent decree — a legally binding reform plan that would require Louisville to meaningfully change how the department polices.

Federal intervention may force Louisville to become the kind of police department it claimed for years to be.

Rosie Cima and Mark Fahey of Newsy contributed reporting. A grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism supported KyCIR’s work.

The post The model city: Inside LMPD’s failure to reform itself appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

ULPD reports armed robbery at The Retreat also involved a sexual assault Wednesday, Oct 13 2021 

By Eli Hughes–

University of Louisville Police Department announced on Oct. 12 that the armed robbery committed at The Retreat on Oct. 11 also involved a sexual assault. The crime is believed to be connected with at least two other incidents.

“Today, the University of Louisville Police Department (ULPD) and Louisville Metro Police Sexual Crime Division determined that each agency is investigating incidents involving a sexual predator who is considered armed and dangerous,” the email from U of L said.

“The first of two off-campus incidents was reported in late July to LMPD. UofL investigated an incident in August 2021 near University Pointe matching the description of the crimes.”

There is still no description of the suspect at this time on account of him wearing a mask when the crimes were committed.

ULPD has stationed more officers around campus during the evening and early morning in response to the Oct. 11 incident. They continue to encourage anyone with information to call (502) 852-6111.

The email ended with safety reminders from ULPD:

— Lock all doors and windows

— Stay alert and be aware of your surroundings

— Walk with confidence and purpose

— Use well-lit public walkways

— Walk with a friend.

— Avoid texting or displaying a smartphone while traveling

— Use the Cardinal Cruiser escort service by calling (502) 852-6111

— Download the free RAVE safety app for your iPhone or Android phone.

File Graphic//The Louisville Cardinal

 

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LMPD Officer Recently Arrested For Domestic Violence Has History Of Similar Allegations Tuesday, Jun 15 2021 

Before he was arrested earlier this month for domestic violence, Louisville Metro Police Officer Harry Seeders had a long history of similar allegations. The police department was aware of this record when they hired him.

Seeders, 30, was arrested June 4 on two counts of fourth-degree assault after he allegedly hit, shoved and strangled a woman he was dating. He is out on a $2,500 bond. He was already on administrative leave from LMPD for shooting and killing Louisville resident Brian Allen Thurman in November 2020 during a traffic stop in the Portland neighborhood.

Through his lawyer, Seeders declined to comment, citing pending litigation.

Years earlier, Seeders was twice accused of domestic violence by the mother of his child. In 2009, when their son was seven months old, Seeders and the woman accused each other of domestic violence; both were granted emergency protective orders against each other. The order was dismissed at the request of the petitioners five days later. That case appears to have been expunged from Seeders’ record sometime after January 2016, according to records provided by the Bullitt County Courthouse.

In 2011, he was arrested and charged with fourth-degree assault against the same woman. According to court records, Seeders was visiting her to drop off a child support check. The complaint says the woman told Seeders to leave, and Seeders asked her to “come over to the couch and ‘suck his d—.’” When the woman refused, Seeders allegedly grabbed her by the neck.

“I told him to let go because I couldn’t breath[e]. He then threw me down on the couch beside him and said ‘F—- you and you can tell your boyfriend to suck my d— too,’” the complaint reads.

The judge granted the woman a domestic violence order, preventing Seeders from being within 500 feet of her, her children, family or residence for three years. The judge also ordered Seeders to attend a domestic batterer intervention program.

The fourth-degree assault charge was amended down to harassment without physical contact, and dismissed after Seeders completed a diversion program.

In July 2013, the woman filed a motion to drop the 2011 domestic violence protection order. The judge dismissed the case the same month.

Seeders was once again arrested in August 2016 in Jefferson County, this time for domestic violence against his girlfriend at the time. That case has been expunged, so the records aren’t publicly available. But the woman he assaulted told WFPL News that Seeders took her phone, broke it, smashed a hole in the wall of their apartment and slammed her into a chest of drawers.

At one point, she said, he pinned her down with his full weight and strangled her. She says he only stopped attacking her when the neighbors called the police because she was screaming so loudly.

WFPL does not name victims of domestic violence.

The woman recalled that he was charged and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. She said she believed at the time that he regretted his actions and wouldn’t do it again, and agreed to tell the prosecutor that. She said he didn’t hit her again, but she wishes she had seen his actions for the manipulation she now feels they were.

“This [June 2021] case sounds like literally what happened to me,” she said. “I wish I would have said something then, but I believed what he was telling me.”

There is no record of this case in public-facing court record databases. Two people told WFPL that Seeders got the case expunged because he wanted to apply to LMPD and that, in fact, he had applied to the department and been rejected several times before he was hired in 2018.

He previously worked in loss prevention at Wal-Mart and served in the military overseas as part of the Kentucky Army National Guard, according to court records.

The woman involved in the 2016 case said Seeders left in October of that year to work in Afghanistan doing private security. He returned in January 2017. His young son died of a brain aneurysm the next month. The couple broke up not long after.

“I was shocked when he [was hired],” she said. “He needs help, because he’s gone through a lot. Psychological help, which is devastating to hear about a police officer, because I don’t think he’s gotten the help he needs [at the department].”

Seeders was hired and started at the LMPD Academy in February 2018, according to LMPD spokesperson Beth Ruoff.

Ruoff said the department was aware of the two protective orders and two arrests, and that Seeders provided documentation of the expungements in the 2009 and 2016 cases.

She confirmed that Officer Seeders made it to the background check stage once, for an unsuccessful application, before getting hired. The background check process that preceded his hire began in October 2017, she said.

Ruoff said domestic violence orders “do factor into the hiring process. If they are active an individual can not be hired. If they are inactive it is a case by case situation.”

WFPL reporters Ryan Van Velzer, Ryland Barton and Jess Clark contributed to this story.

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New Lawsuit Alleges Unlawful Search By Scandal-Ridden LMPD Officers Saturday, May 29 2021 

Louisville Metro Police officers are accused of violating a Louisville woman’s constitutional rights and police policy when they executed a midnight raid in May 2019 over a drug investigation into her then-boyfriend, according to a lawsuit filed this week in Jefferson Circuit Court.

The officers searched Keesha Boyd’s home, detaining her children and destroying her furniture before seizing more than $30,000 in cash, her attorney claims in the court filing.

Boyd wasn’t charged with a crime in connection with the search. Her attorneys allege that the search was unlawful, and the warrant was based on false information. The suit, filed against nine LMPD officers, alleges they unlawfully broke into Boyd’s home and took her property and seeks punitive damages.

The circumstances of the case bear striking similarities to the investigation and subsequent raid that resulted in the police killing of Breonna Taylor — including some of the officers involved.

Former LMPD officers (L-R) Brett Hankison, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly

Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, and former officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankison were among the 16 officers that executed warrants at the homes of Keesha Boyd and her then-boyfriend Anthony Bonner, according to court records and police documents.

The warrants were based on claims provided by a confidential informant — and obtained by narcotics detective Brian Bailey, who is currently on administrative reassignment pending an investigation into allegations in three lawsuits that he sexually abused multiple women whom he forced to work as confidential informants. 

LMPD

LMPD Detective Brian Bailey

“The police officers had absolutely no reason to be there, legal or otherwise,” attorney Patrick C.M. Hoerter said in a statement. “Their actions constitute a violation of her clearly established rights. We believe the warrant was issued based on false information provided by a confidential informant who was coerced by Bailey. Keesha is one of the many victims in this community of Brian Bailey’s illegal warrants and illegal forfeiture practices.” 

Boyd declined to comment for this report. Bonner could not be reached. A spokesperson for LMPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The warrants obtained by Bailey for Boyd and Bonner’s homes are nearly identical.

Attorneys have criticized Bailey’s use of confidential informants and accused him in court of relying on “boilerplate” affidavits and, in some cases, making up information.

He was also the subject of a recent investigation by KyCIR and WDRB News that found he obtained more residential search warrants than any other LMPD officer between January 2019 and June 2020. All but one of the warrants reviewed by KyCIR and WDRB was based, at least in part, on the word of confidential informants.

(Related: LMPD Cleared Top Warrant Detective Of Sexual Misconduct. Then, More Women Came Forward)

In seeking the search warrant for Boyd’s house, Bailey said in an affidavit that Bonner would “come and go” from her house, “and on multiple occasions staying for hours or spending the night.” Bailey also alleged that a confidential informant had purchased heroin from Bonner at Boyd’s house, though he didn’t present any evidence of a controlled buy, what experts consider best practice for drug cases involving informants. 

Bailey offered no evidence that Boyd, herself, was involved in criminal activity.

“It is common for drug traffickers to have two separate locations for drugs and money to avoid law enforcement detection,” Bailey wrote in his affidavit, which was signed by Jefferson District Judge Jessica A. Moore about seven hours before police burst into Boyd’s home with a battering ram as she slept, according to the lawsuit. 

Inside Boyd’s home, police found the money, three guns, and less than an eighth of an ounce of marijuana, according to court documents and police records.

As Mattingly and seven other officers searched Boyd’s house in Shively, Hankison, Bailey and Cosgrove were among the eight officers searching Bonner’s home about four miles away in Parkland.

There, with a no-knock warrant, they found more money, a few guns, and an array of drugs.

Bonner was charged with multiple drug trafficking crimes and pled guilty in November 2020 to amended charges in a one-year felony diversion agreement. A day later, Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Susan Schultz Gibson approved the LMPD’s seizure that totaled more than $46,000 in cash.

Boyd claims the $30,000 seized from her house has no connection to drug dealing.

This story follows reporting done in a collaboration between KyCIR and WDRB News.

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What’s Under Scrutiny In LMPD Investigation? Basically Everything Friday, May 21 2021 

Federal investigators are collecting a catalogue of internal documents and records that would detail virtually every recorded interaction between Louisville Metro Police officers and citizens as they set the stage for a deep examination of the beleaguered agency.  

The day after U.S. Attorney Merrick Garland announced the investigation last month, attorneys with the United States Department of Justice and the local United States Attorney’s Office asked the city for particulars about police databases and files that detail when officers stop and search residents, when they use force, disciplinary measures and policy documents — including those “not presently made available to the public,” according to documents obtained by the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting through an open records request. 

Investigators will be examining union contracts, agreements with other government agencies and behavioral health providers, organizational charts, employee rosters, pay scales, training documents, and detailed descriptions of each division and specialized unit within the department, according to the DOJ’s request.

They also asked for a list of all paper documents and recordings “typically stored” at LMPD.

The request by the Department of Justice last month is an indication of how quickly the agency’s civil rights investigation into LMPD began, and shows just how deep investigators will look to assess whether the agency has a pattern or practice of civil rights violations in policing.

As a recipient of federal funding, LMPD is required to provide records to the Department of Justice. In a letter dated April 27, investigators made 19 specific requests for information. City officials have provided responses to 13 of the requests, adhering to a May 11 deadline set by the federal investigators, according to a spokesperson for Jefferson County Mike O’Connell. The remaining six troves of records will be due to federal investigators next week, according to the DOJ’s request.

The wide scope of the request is typical of a Department of Justice pattern and practice investigation, which are known for scrutinizing police departments at an organizational level, said Samuel Walker, emeritus professor at University of Nebraska Omaha’s school of criminology and criminal justice. Walker who has studied DOJ investigations and reviewed the DOJ request to Louisville officials on KyCIR’s behalf.

“They don’t do piecemeal reform,” he said.

The investigation seeks to determine if the police department engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing that violates the Constitution or federal law, particularly in how it executes search warrants, uses force and polices protests. The investigation comes in the wake of a flurry of scandals and controversies stemming from LMPD, including the police killing of Breonna Taylor and the months of protests that followed.

Investigators will look beyond the actions of individual officers to pinpoint the system that perpetuates harmful, dangerous, and bad policing, Walker said. The records obtained by federal investigators will show how officers are trained, and how they’re expected to interact with the public and respond to a range of situations — from protests, to emergencies and critical calls for help.

“They’re focused on, ‘Where are the failures,’” he said. “Inadequate policies, inadequate supervision and discipline.”

In fact, in previous similar investigations of police departments conducted by the Department of Justice officers have been key sources of information that can help pinpoint problematic policies and other departmental shortcomings by giving interviews with investigators and taking investigators on ride-alongs during patrol shifts, said Walker.

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who oversaw the police department that made more than 800 arrests during the protests last year, said the investigation is “an opportunity and a privilege.” 

Spokespeople for the mayor’s office and LMPD did not immediately respond to questions about the records provided.

Officers, Citizens Both Sought As Sources

Some local activists and politicians are cautiously optimistic about the federal investigation, noting that its outcome will depend on how thorough investigators are in their examination of the department. 

Metro Councilman Jecorey Arthur, who represents the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods, said it’s clear that LMPD needs serious intervention and reform — for proof he pointed to a recent audit of the agency that found it was a department “in crisis.”

As part of their request to the city for records, federal investigators are also seeking any documents obtained by the private firm that conducted that audit.

Arthur said community engagement, and how the investigators respond to the community and shares findings with the community, is critical for getting a full understanding of how LMPD operates in the city and what needs to change.

“We know there are problems,” he said. “We want transparency out of this investigation.”

Federal investigators, however, made it clear in their request for records that certain information obtained in the course of the investigation will be kept confidential and excluded from public release, including names of individual officers or other witnesses or anything not used to support investigative findings.

Days after the investigation was announced, a team of investigators met with community members, including Arthur, for an introductory discussion.

Shameka Parrish-Wright, a local activist and mayoral candidate, also participated in the meeting. She said it “shows something is happening” and is a reason for people to have some hope that changes will come to how police operate in Louisville.

Investigators have also been in contact with the local police union, according to Dave Mutchler, the union’s spokesperson.

Mutchler said the investigators want to use the union as a “conduit” to encourage officers to speak openly about the department and how it operates.

“They’re not really focusing in on any individuals right now,” he said. “They want to see how this department operates, what we do, what our policies and procedures are, and how they dictate how we deal with the public.” 

Mutchler said the investigation is still getting started, and because of that the union has yet to take a stance on if they “like or dislike how it’s going, yet.”

“So far, it just is what it is.”

The post What’s Under Scrutiny In LMPD Investigation? Basically Everything appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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.

Brief: LMPD makes arrest on campus Friday, Feb 19 2021 

By Eli Hughes–

The Louisville Metro Police Department made an arrest after an incident on Fourth Street between Brandeis Avenue and Cardinal Boulevard on February 19.

University of Louisville Police Department Chief Gary Lewis said ULPD was on the scene assisting LMPD with the situation.  “Today, the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) contacted our agency and advised that they were in pursuit of a vehicle on Fourth Street and the suspect later stopped, then was barricaded inside the car just south of Cardinal Boulevard,” Lewis said. “ULPD responded to assist in setting up traffic control and a perimeter.”

Students received a RAVE alert at 11:54 A.M. informing students to avoid the area. A second RAVE alert was issued and 12:40  P.M. with an update that the issue had been resolved.

“After approx. 45 minutes, the suspect exited the vehicle without incident and LMPD took custody. The scene was cleared and a subsequent UofL Safety Update was sent to the campus community notifying students that they could return to this area on campus,” Lewis said.

The Louisville Cardinal reached out to the LMPD for information regarding this incident but has not received a reply at the time of publishing this article.

We will update this story with more information as we learn more.

Photo by Sean Willis

The post Brief: LMPD makes arrest on campus appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

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