Breonna Taylor was killed at 12:48 a.m. March 13. Meanwhile, before sunrise March 13, I was awoken by a friend and notified to stay home for two weeks because I had just returned from international travel. It wasn’t until 58 days later that another friend – in California – awoke me to Breonna’s death, Kenneth Walker’s imprisonment and the city’s fatal errors that caused both. The coronavirus is no excuse. How could we have been asleep so long?
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Over the last few weeks, as thousands of Louisvillians have taken to the streets demanding justice in Breonna’s case and protesting institutional racism and brutality against black people in our city and America’s criminal justice (and economic) systems, the Metro Council has rallied, too. At our May 14 meeting, we called on LMPD and the Mayor’s Office to be fully transparent on all matters related to the shootings. We also requested the Kentucky Attorney General, U.S. Attorney and FBI to conduct their own independent investigations. At our May 28 meeting, we passed an emergency resolution urging the administration to release the related 911 calls and call logs. We introduced legislation to regulate no-knock search warrants, including the use of body cameras; and we have since strengthened it by amendment. Our Public Safety Committee passed it today (6/3) and, while I continue to argue for a more effective ban, I am proud to be a co-sponsor. I expect the whole Council to usher it into law next Thursday.
Over the last week, as violence between police and protesters, against journalists and bystanders has rocked the city – including killing Deer Park resident and Russell business owner David McAtee – our Council has remained united and resolute. On Monday (6/1), we called for LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit to conclude its investigation into Breonna Taylor’s death and deliver the final report to the State AG by Friday. Our Government Oversight and Audit Committee (on which I serve) launched an investigation into the police’s handling of last weekend’s events, including the use of force, the harassment of reporters and the National Guard’s presence in West Louisville early Monday morning. We are establishing a permanent Committee on Racial Equity. We are pursuing legislation: to prohibit the withholding of 911 tapes, 911 call logs, body camera footage and radio transmissions due to an ongoing investigation; and to require any sworn personnel to submit to a drug and urinalysis when involved in any critical incident. Finally, our membership is serving on a Civilian Review Board Work Group to create legislation giving power to the people to hold police accountable for misconduct.
Tomorrow is uncertain. From David McAtee’s case to the protest unfolding literally right now out my back door (late Tuesday; Mid City Mall), to happenings around the country. But my confidence in my 25 colleagues and what they represent – who they represent, the people of this city – is at an all-time high. That’s something we can hold on to.
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Finally, as the city conducts a “top-to-bottom” review of LMPD and searches for a new police chief, it is critical to understand that real change doesn’t start from the top-down. Nor does it start from the bottom-up. It comes from the inside-out based on core values to create a culture new and different than what currently exists.
“They’re supposed to help us not hurt us. I just don’t get it,” one 32-year old female protester said.
Well, I do. In full disclosure, I’ve had a longstanding relationship with the folks behind this 2017 Lexington Police Department Recruitment video but compare this 2015 LMPD recruitment video (1:39) to the LPD’s (1:00). Please take the two minutes and thirty-nine seconds…
It’s not just the video, of course, that caused the deaths of Breonna Taylor, David McAtee and the untold suffering of centuries of black Louisville – but it is what the video represents that’s responsible.
“They’re supposed to help us not hurt us.” Our next police department must start and end here.
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