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

 

The post ULPD reports armed robbery at The Retreat also involved a sexual assault appeared first on The Louisville Cardinal.

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.

The post LMPD Officer Recently Arrested For Domestic Violence Has History Of Similar Allegations appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

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.

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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.

LMPD’s Top Warrant Cop Accused Of Sexual Abuse, Questionable Tactics Thursday, Feb 4 2021 

In June 2018, Louisville Metro Police Detective Brian Bailey asked a judge for a warrant to search a house in the Portland neighborhood.

Bailey told the judge he expected to find large amounts of illegal pills, marijuana and drug paraphernalia. The only evidence he had was a confidential informant who had told him a drug dealer lived at the house with his grandmother, girlfriend and children; the informant said they’d seen drugs at the house in the last 48 hours. And Bailey told the judge he’d personally seen a man matching the suspect’s description coming and going, according to the affidavit. 

The warrant was granted, and later that day, Bailey and a team of officers busted down the door with a battering ram. Instead of a drug dealer and large quantities of marijuana, they found four kids, a baggie of weed and the president of a group that throws LMPD an annual Christmas party. 

This was just one of dozens of warrants Brian Bailey has obtained, most of which started with confidential informants and some of which ended without arrests. In fact, Bailey obtained more residential search warrants than any other LMPD officer between January 2019 and June 2020, according to an analysis by KyCIR and WDRB of all 472 publicly available warrants from that period. He obtained more search warrants than the next two officers combined. 

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

All but one of the warrants reviewed by KyCIR and WDRB was based, at least in part, on the word of confidential informants.

Two of his confidential informants accused Bailey in a lawsuit of coercing them into becoming informants, and sexually assaulting them for years. 

Bailey is on administrative reassignment pending an investigation. He has not been criminally charged. Bailey’s attorney, James McKiernan, and an LMPD spokesperson declined comment. 

Bailey’s warrants often don’t yield anything. A review of court records show at least 10 didn’t result in arrests. In more than a third of his warrants, officers found no drugs, or only marijuana. 

That’s what happened at the house in Portland in 2018. 

Matthew Brinson

The officers were expecting to find a big time drug dealer, but instead, they found Matthew Brinson, just returned from his job at a hardware store, and four children, sitting on the couch. 

Officers put Brinson in handcuffs while they ransacked his house, looking for the alleged drugs, he said. They found a small bag of personal-use marijuana tucked in the pocket of a pair of jeans in a bedroom and three marijuana plants out by the fence line. Brinson was not the target of the search, but he was still charged with two misdemeanors. 

Brinson knew the alleged drug dealer the police said they were looking for, but said he hadn’t been in the house since Brinson moved in the previous year. 

“It was just a whole cluster of lies that I can contradict, that I can prove, up and down,” Brinson said. 

The warrant Bailey obtained did not have a “no-knock” provision, but Brinson said he didn’t hear the police knock or announce themselves. Video footage from a neighbor’s surveillance camera shows police breaking down the door almost as soon as they walked onto the front porch. 

Shortly after police entered the house, Brinson said he overheard one of the officers admit they made a mistake. 

“When we first kicked in the front door, I knew we … fu**ed up,” a detective said, according to an affidavit Brinson filed in his criminal case. He claims the detective then took off his vest, saying, “It’s too hot out here for this.”

Experts: Warrants Raise Red Flags

LMPD

LMPD Detective Brian Bailey

Bailey, a narcotics unit detective, has been with LMPD since 2009. He is the top warrant-getter in a department whose search warrant procedures have come under intense scrutiny since LMPD officers killed Breonna Taylor. 

A recent audit of the department found a “culture of acceptance” in which supervisors seldom asked officers about the underlying facts and circumstances in affidavits used to obtain warrants. 

Bailey’s reliance on confidential informants — often to the exclusion of other investigative methods — should have raised red flags for the department, according to attorneys and experts. 

Attorney Rob Eggert filed a motion on Jan. 26 accusing Bailey of repeatedly using “boilerplate” language about confidential informants that is not independently corroborated and often don’t lead to arrests. Eggert is defending someone in a criminal case resulting from a Bailey warrant.

Judges are “asked to essentially rubber-stamp Det. Bailey’s assertions of probable cause,” Eggert wrote in the motion. “The alleged (confidential informant) is at the core of the assertion of probable cause in Det. Bailey’s affidavits, but no information is provided to ascertain the reliability or credibility of the alleged informants.”

LMPD policy requires that officers specify the reliability of the confidential informant and the information provided.

Louisville attorney Todd Lewis, a former state and federal prosecutor who has taught LMPD police recruits about proper search warrant procedures, said the credibility of a confidential informant is gauged by how much detail the officer provides. That includes whether an affidavit shows results from a past working relationship with police.

In 23 of Bailey’s 35 affidavits reviewed by WDRB News and KyCIR, Bailey didn’t provide specific examples of previous information that led to arrests, confiscating drugs or seizing cash. Those affidavits simply say the unnamed informant is familiar with criminal activity because of his or her past.

A review of Bailey’s affidavits reveals that he often does not describe using common policing tactics to verify the information provided by his confidential informants. 

In a majority of his affidavits, he never did a controlled buy, where a cooperating witness or undercover police officer buys drugs from the suspect. Those arranged purchases are an example of “direct evidence” that may hold up during a trial, said Brian Gallini, dean of the Willamette University College of Law and a criminal justice scholar who reviewed Bailey’s affidavits for KyCIR and WDRB. 

While Bailey reported conducting some form of surveillance in nearly all of his investigations, the scope of that surveillance is not always clear. Bailey noted that he observed “short stays,” people coming and going in a pattern that indicates drug activity, in less than half of the affidavits. He mentioned performing an investigative stop, when police pull someone over after observing them at the subject’s house, in only four of 35 affidavits. 

Taken together, Gallini said the affidavits don’t include enough evidence of identifiable offenses. He said he also is troubled by inconsistencies: some affidavits specify the past reliability of Bailey’s informants, while others use repetitive language without showing any details about the sources’ previous interactions with police. 

“The fact that we’ve got not only a detective who is pushing [this] style of warrants, but also judicial review that’s permitting them – I think that raises a separate concern here,” he said.

Former Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Stephen Ryan, who was on the bench for more than two decades and is now a defense attorney, said if the same officer is using the same methods in multiple warrants – using confidential informants without doing controlled buys – “it’s something you should question. It should raise a red flag.”

“If one officer is doing that many search warrants with that little information, you probably have a problem,” Ryan said. 

Bailey Accused Of Sexually Assaulting Informants 

Lawyers for the women who accused Bailey of sexual assault say the LMPD has been investigating the claim for at least a year.

The first woman sued Bailey and the LMPD in October 2020, alleging Bailey coerced her into becoming an informant and forced her to engage in oral sex with him. A second woman asked to join the suit a month later with the same allegations. 

The two women, identified only as Jane Doe and Jane Doe 1, say Bailey sexually harassed and assaulted them for two and three years, respectively. The women do not know each other. 

Under LMPD’s standard operating procedures, an officer should not meet with an informant of the opposite sex unless in the presence of another officer. But a commanding officer may grant an exception if it is in the best interest of the department. 

A spokeswoman for LMPD said the department does not discuss pending litigation and declined a request for an interview about Bailey.  

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Jane Doe claims Bailey pulled her and her boyfriend over on July 18, 2018, and police took them both into custody after officers had just allegedly found illegal drugs in his home. 

The woman did not live there and had no connection to the drugs, but was detained for at least two hours, according to the suit. 

The suit claims that Bailey threatened to charge Doe and when she became upset, he put his hand on her thigh and said, “I can help you, if you can help me.”

He then drove her home but before she could get out of the vehicle, he said, “You owe me,” the suit claims. Bailey allegedly told her that meant oral sex and, “fearful of the ramifications,” she complied. 

Several weeks later, the suit alleges that Bailey and his partner, who is also named in the lawsuits, forced Doe to become a paid confidential informant through “overwhelming pressure and threats.” 

For the next two years, Doe said she was sexually assaulted by Bailey and forced to serve as a confidential informant on multiple occasions, according to the suit. 

The other woman, Jane Doe 1, was introduced to Bailey in late 2017 and agreed to be a paid confidential informant, according to her suit. 

Doe 1 said in the suit that Bailey helped her get rid of criminal charges, and that he told her she “owed him” and solicited oral sex from her on several occassions. 

Bailey also threatened to lock her boyfriend up and forced her to send him nude text pictures, the suit claims. 

Doe 1 said she was interviewed by a detective about Bailey’s conduct in Feb. 2020. She provided clothing that she believed contained Bailey’s DNA, according to the suit. 

“These are not isolated incidents,” attorney Vince Johnson, who represents the initial plaintiff, told a judge on Jan. 22. “This is a pattern of conduct by Mr. Bailey that has occurred over multiple years.”

Johnson said there is proof of the allegations, including text messages from Bailey and physical evidence, and that Bailey’s supervisors and others in the department have known about these assaults and others for several years.

“There are LMPD officers that were aware of Bailey’s conduct…dating back to 2015 and probably before that and they took no action, thereby allowing him to victimize more people,” Johnson said in court. 

Johnson also said another alleged Bailey victim recently approached him with a similar complaint. Johnson is pushing LMPD to turn over evidence and allow Bailey to be deposed, despite the ongoing internal investigation. 

“The public has the right to know about this pattern of behavior by Detective Bailey, to learn what individuals in LMPD knew and when they knew it and what they did to remedy the problem,” Johnson said in court. 

Jefferson Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Wine said in a statement that some Bailey cases are being dismissed or resolved by plea agreement because of the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct.   

“We are always concerned whenever a witness’s credibility is challenged,” he said. “Before the allegations of sexual misconduct, our prosecutors were not aware of any reasons to question Bailey’s credibility.”

‘A cowboy trying to get his stripes’

After the police let him out of handcuffs and departed, Matthew Brinson was left to deal with the fallout from the mistaken raid. He had to fix the door the police had broken, clean up the house they’d torn apart and replace the security cameras that he said they broke. 

He had to answer a million questions from his neighbors, and calm his daughters, who he said were traumatized by what they saw.

“My daughter didn’t stay home with me for a week,” he said. “I got a family member that happened to be a cop and she says she wants to stay with him… because they wouldn’t kick his door down.” 

Brinson is a big supporter of the police. He’s the president of the 1st Division Police Auxiliary, which throws a Christmas party for the officers every year. But he said that experience shook him, and learning that Bailey has a track record of problems made him question why he hasn’t been stopped before.

“Brian Bailey’s just…a cowboy trying to get his stripes,” Brinson said. “This ain’t the first rodeo for him, and probably, if he’s still a police officer, it won’t be his last.”

Brinson’s attorney, Thomas Clay, believes the police went into the wrong house that day. He wanted to question Bailey about the claims the confidential informant made about his client’s house, but those efforts stalled quickly.

Even if the information provided by the informant was incorrect, the law would require Clay to prove Bailey included false statements “intentionally or recklessly,” a prosecutor argued to Jefferson District Court Judge Sara Nicholson during a January 2019 hearing. And she said questioning an officer about a confidential informant happens in only “the most extreme cases.”

Nicholson agreed with the prosecution and denied Clay’s motion.

“There’s been no showing that Detective Bailey’s statements (in the warrant affidavit) were deliberately false or in reckless disregard for the truth,” she said, according to a video of the Jan. 14, 2019 hearing.

“When you allege the cop lied about a search warrant and illegally entered the wrong house, that should be enough for a hearing,” Clay said in a recent interview.  

Brinson’s charges were eventually dismissed. Clay said he was not going to agree to a plea bargain and prosecutors did not want to take the case to trial. The Jefferson County Attorney’s office, which prosecuted Brinson, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Ryan, the former judge, said that if a judge does agree to a motion to suppress evidence or identify a confidential informant, prosecutors will most likely dismiss the case.

So how are judges and defense attorneys supposed to know how solid the confidential informant’s information is, or whether he or she is telling the truth?

“Good question,” Ryan said. “It’s an ongoing problem in how you verify them.”

KyCIR’s Eleanor Klibanoff and WDRB’s Marcus Green contributed reporting to this story, which was produced through a collaboration between the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting and WDRB News.

This work was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to KyCIR.

The post LMPD’s Top Warrant Cop Accused Of Sexual Abuse, Questionable Tactics appeared first on Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.

A Year Before Fatal Encounter, LMPD Changed It’s Policy On Shooting At Moving Vehicles Monday, Dec 28 2020 

The recent Louisville Metro Police shooting of Brian Allen Thurman has gotten attention as the first fatal police shooting since the city announced it would turn these investigations over to the Kentucky State Police.

But this is also the first time an LMPD officer has shot and killed someone in a moving car since the agency changed its policy on shootings involving moving vehicles late last year.

LMPD Officer Harry Seeders pulled Thurman over in the Portland neighborhood around 10:30 p.m. on November 22. The car Thurman was driving was reportedly stolen. Seeders’ body camera shows that Thurman turned off the car and showed Seeders his hands, but he then turned the car back on.

There was a commotion on the other side of the car — it sounds like a woman’s voice yelling — and Seeders approached the back of the car, now in reverse, yelling “stop.” Thurman hit him with the car, and Seeders began to fire his weapon into the Honda CR-V.

He fired five shots. Thurman died at University of Louisville Hospital that night. LMPD said a woman fled the scene.

Before November 2019, Seeders’ actions would have been measured against LMPD’s policy, which prohibited shooting at or from a moving vehicle unless returning gunfire from the car. Even then, the policy stressed, officers should only shoot at a moving vehicle “when it does not create an unreasonable risk of harm to innocent persons.”

But last year, LMPD changed that policy to allow police to shoot at or from moving vehicles in response to deadly force. A moving vehicle itself is not necessarily deadly force, the policy says, unless it’s being used in a “vehicle ramming attack” — anytime a driver is trying to injure or kill someone with their car.

LMPD spokesperson Sgt. John Bradley said the old policy may have been ambiguous when compared to the agency’s broader use of force policy, which allows an officer to use deadly force when they believe they or another person face an immediate threat of death or serious injury.

Many police departments have loosened their policies on shooting at moving vehicles in recent years, in response to terrorist attacks across Europe and the United States where cars or trucks were driven into crowds. But some experts say these rare events will never outweigh the risk to public safety of allowing police officers to shoot at moving vehicles.

“That opens the door to an officer saying, ‘I thought he was going to run me over so I shot him,’” said Geoffrey Alpert, who studies policing tactics at the University of South Carolina. “That’s the exact reason the prohibiting policy is in place, because that excuse was used far too often, and people that shouldn’t be dead are dead.”

Shooting Car Turns It Into ‘Unguided Missile’ 

Since the agency was founded during city-county consolidation in 2003, LMPD forbade shooting at moving vehicles, except to return gunfire.

The former policy was in line with policing best practices from organizations like The Police Executive Research Forum, which is leading the city’s search for a new police chief. PERF recommends that police departments prohibit shooting at or from moving vehicles unless deadly force is being used against the officer — by a means other than the vehicle itself.

That’s in part because if a car is being used as a deadly weapon, shooting the driver may not actually make the situation safer for the officer, bystanders or any passengers.

“If you shoot me, and I’m driving the car, now you’ve turned it into an unguided missile,” said Alpert. “It could come to a stop, but just as easily it could run into a house and kill 10 people.”

Plus, there’s often a much simpler solution at hand, Alpert said: “The officer could take two steps backwards and get out of the way.”

The push to prohibit shooting at moving vehicles started in New York City in the 1970s. When the NYPD banned the practice, police shootings there declined more than 40%, and have continued to decline since.

John Timoney, the deputy commissioner of the NYPD at the time, directly attributed the decline to the policy change.

“If a cop can give a valid reason why he or she shot at a moving car (I have heard a few in my time), it can be treated as an exception to the rule,” Timoney told PERF. “But in the large majority of cases, a strict rule against shooting at cars will not only save lives, it will keep our cops out of trouble, out of the press, and God forbid, out of jail.”

Like Louisville, the NYPD has also loosened its policy in recent years to permit officers to shoot at moving vehicles that are being used as part of a ramming attack. But the manual specifies that this clause is meant to address an “extraordinary event” like when an officer needs to shoot at a moving vehicle “to terminate a mass casualty terrorist event.”

Both the NYPD and the Washington, D.C. police departments consider a ramming attack as a car being driven into a crowd or a building.

In Louisville, a ramming attack is anytime a car is, or aims to be, driven into a building, person, crowd or another vehicle.

When Thurman backed the vehicle toward Seeders, that could be construed as a ramming attack in Louisville, but it wouldn’t be in New York or Washington, D.C.

Bradley said LMPD considers a threat to one person’s life to be as significant as a mass casualty event, and doesn’t want to put a number on how many people must be in danger before the police are allowed to use deadly force against a moving vehicle.

LMPD policy does specify that officers should “avoid tactics that could place them in a position where a vehicle could be used as a weapon against them.”

New Policy Part Of Local Ordinance 

The current LMPD policy isn’t just enshrined in the agency’s standard operating procedure. Metro Council has turned it into local ordinance — and some local leaders are pushing for it to become state law.

Council members Jessica Green and Brandon Coan sponsored a bill in October that codified some of LMPD’s existing use of force policies, including the policy on shooting at a moving vehicle. Coan said they worked with LMPD, the County Attorney and community members to reach consensus around eight use of force policies, from chokeholds to de-escalation to requiring officers to intervene if they witness excessive force.

There was a lot of debate about many of these measures, Coan said, but they found an easy consensus around the moving vehicles policy.

The language in the ordinance is effectively the same as what’s currently in LMPD’s policy: police officers can shoot at moving vehicles if the vehicle is “being used to strike a person, a crowd, another vehicle or a building or structure when capable of causing mass injuries, serious physical injuries, or the death of another person.”

The ordinance, which passed 15-10, is intended to ensure that a future police chief can not roll back these use of force policies.

“We are saying that the processes and procedures that are in place right now, will always be important and that’s no matter if Robert Schroeder, Yvette Gentry or Mike Jones is the chief of police of the city of Louisville,” Green said during one of the council meetings. “In my mind, these things never need to change.”

If LMPD wanted to return to the old policy that said officers shouldn’t shoot into moving cars unless being fired on, Coan said, the Metro Council would probably have to change the ordinance to reflect that.

The policy as it’s currently written also got the endorsement of the city’s Criminal Justice Commission. This group of Jefferson County criminal justice stakeholders included this policy on its slate of legislative proposals that it has endorsed for the upcoming legislative session.

That list of policies then goes to the Jefferson County delegation, as well as the chairs of the judiciary committee, to encourage them to file legislation to codify it in state law.

“It’s a policy that other police departments around the country have adopted, so it’s not a new idea that originated with the criminal justice commission,” said Scott Furkin, the executive director of the Louisville Bar Association and chair of the legislative committee of the commission. “But it’s certainly one we found merit in.”

Correction: An LMPD officer killed Brian Allen Thurman on Nov. 22. The date was incorrect in a previous version.

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While Other Cities Introduce Police Chief Finalists, Louisville’s List Is Secret Friday, Dec 11 2020 

Mayor Greg Fischer has a short list for a new police chief more than six months after firing former Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad amid scandal and scrutiny.

But the city is breaking with its past practice and keeping finalists for the position secret — even as many other large cities are doing the opposite. 

Jean Porter, a spokesperson for Fischer, said Fischer will announce a new chief by the end of the year. The secrecy surrounding the choice is meant to protect the identity of the candidates, Porter said.

“Disclosure presents a risk to their current employment and a risk to their reputation/credibility if they were not selected,” Porter said via email. 

An eight-member panel signed non-disclosure agreements and interviewed more than 20 applicants for the position. They sent a list of finalists to the Mayor about four weeks ago.

Porter said the candidates “repeatedly identified confidentiality as a top concern,” and she told a reporter to file an open records request to see the non-disclosure agreements. That request hasn’t been fulfilled yet. 

Laura Ellis / WFPL

Former Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad with Mayor Greg Fischer at a news conference in September 2016.

The search follows Conrad’s firing in June after eight years as chief. The mayor’s decision to let Conrad go came during a tumultuous summer in Louisville sparked by LMPD officers killing Breonna Taylor in March, and worsened by the shooting of David McAtee. National Guardsmen shot and killed McAtee after both guardsmen and police shot at him as he stood in the door of his west Louisville barbecue restaurant. Police said he fired a gun out the door after LMPD officers began pelting the restaurant with pepper balls to break up a crowd and enforce a curfew due to protests downtown.

David McAtee

LMPD officers who shot at McAtee had failed to activate their body cameras, even as protests raged over Taylor’s killing, which also had no video footage. Conrad, who had already announced his intention to retire, was fired the same day. His immediate replacement, Robert Schroeder, retired in September. LMPD’s current interim chief, Yvette Gentry, has said she won’t seek the permanent job.

Louisville officials provided a survey for residents to complete in which they could express what they’d like to see in a new chief. More than 10,100 anonymous responses were collected between June 10 and July 18, according to a city database. More than 2,400 of the responses suggested the next chief “defund the police.”

Other Cities ‘As Transparent As Possible’

Other cities on the hunt for a police chief aren’t being so opaque. 

At least nine cities where police chief searches are underway or were recently completed have publicized lists of finalists. 

Officials in Dallas on Wednesday released a list of seven finalists. In Milwaukee, the three finalists have held virtual public forums and sat for interviews with local news organizations. Four finalists for the top cop job in Madison, Wisconsin have also addressed community questions. Finalists have also been named in Ft. Worth, Texas, Arlington, Texas, Framingham, Mass., Oakland, Calif. and Nashville.

“We wanted to ensure we were as transparent as possible with Nashville residents in selecting the new chief,” said Katie Lentile, spokesperson for the city’s mayor, when asked why the list was made public.

In Louisville, secrecy has not always been the norm when it comes to police chief hiring. Fischer was mayor the last time they filled the job, and he did name the finalists when he hired Conrad. 

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green, chair of the council’s public safety committee and member of the panel that interviewed candidates, said consultants with the Police Executive Research Forum — who were hired to facilitate a nationwide search —  encouraged officials to keep the candidates’ names a secret.

“We were led to believe that this was best practice — to not announce the finalist names,” she said. Looking back, however, and seeing other cities openly share candidate names, Green said she wishes there could be more transparency. Green signed a non-disclosure agreement along with the rest of the panel.

“I would have liked for the public to have an opportunity to see who finalists are,” she said.

Keeping secrets like this from the public will only widen the gap between police and the community, said Keturah Herron, policy strategist for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.

“Now is the time for the mayor and LMPD to be more transparent, not less,” she said. “There is no reason not to let the public in on this process.”

Councilman James Peden, vice chair of the council’s public safety committee and member of the interviewing panel, said he was surprised to see candidates were named in other cities. But he maintains that the promise of secrecy enabled stronger candidates to apply without fear of reprisal from current employers.

“I feel we got a much better list of candidates to apply up front because it was a closed process,” he said, comparing the candidates he interviewed with the candidates publicized this week in Dallas.

Louisville Metro Council President David James was also on the panel that interviewed candidates for the chief job. He said he’s not bothered by the secrecy surrounding the finalists, who he says should have a right to keep their job searches private from their current employers.

And both James and Peden compared the need for secrecy to recent reports that University of Louisville football coach Scott Satterfield was looking to leave the school for a coaching job at the University of South Carolina. People were upset at those reports, James said, because if they were true it would mean Satterfield was leaving U of L for a lesser program, even though both programs have each won only two conference games this season.

The same can be said for Louisville Metro Police, he said. If a chief makes it known they are seeking out a job in Louisville — which is plagued with problems regarding police and community relationships, and where the lame duck mayor has only a few years left in their tenure — it could damage their reputation.

“You’ve got social civil unrest, a police department that’s riddled with piss poor leadership over a number of years, and you’ve got a mayor that allowed that to happen,” James said. “It’s not like you’re coming into a great situation.”

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