Independent review of LMPD points out significant challenges and ‘clear roadmap’ to address them
Mayor says audit provides ‘unflinching’ look at what LMPD does well and areas for improvement to realize goal of being best police department in the nation
An independent review of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) outlines significant challenges, as well as “a clear roadmap” for addressing those challenges and realizing Mayor Greg Fischer’s goal for LMPD to be the best police department in the nation.
The city and LMPD “will need to overcome many challenges to establish the trust and collaboration necessary to ensure the LMPD’s policing services meet everyone’s goals and desires,” said Robert Davis, Senior Vice President for Hillard Heintze, the Chicago-based company hired in July to conduct the review. “We are confident that the will and leadership exist within the LMPD to make this happen.”
Mayor Fischer agreed: “We have committed to reimagining public safety, and that requires an unflinching, comprehensive look at what LMPD is doing well, and what can be done better. An independent audit like this is an extraordinarily valuable tool in making an organization better, and we plan to lean into the findings here – good and bad.”
The 150-page report notes that LMPD has been at the center of the national spotlight on police practices after the tragic death of Breonna Taylor and that many people of color don’t trust police officers “due to generations of problematic relations.” In addition, it says many LMPD officers are unsure they want to continue this career path. Davis said these are challenges that police departments across the country are facing, and his team is “confident” LMPD can overcome them.
“Our experience has shown us that even when facing significant operational difficulties and a critical need to rebuild community trust, agencies that embrace our recommendations succeed in building that trust and raising their level of professionalism in line with some of the most progressive police departments in the country,” Davis said. “With the leadership provided by Chief Erika Shields and others, we fully expect that in the next few years, policing agencies across the country will turn to the LMPD to learn how to make such positive operational changes.”
Working since late July, Hillard Heintze pored over data and statistics, conducted interviews and reviewed LMPD’s policies, procedures, protocols and training on the use of force, de-escalation, search and arrest warrants, crisis intervention, crowd control, community-oriented policing, bias-free policing and procedural justice.
The report noted several areas where LMPD is aligned with or leading on national best practices, including its de-escalation training and use-of-force continuum, which have led to a reduction in use-of-force incidents, as well as fewer injuries to residents and officers.
However, the report also found significant disparities in arrest numbers and areas of inconsistency in training and leadership. “These are areas that demand our attention,” Mayor Fischer said. “It can be difficult to face up to our failings, but that’s exactly what we have to do, if we want to improve and move forward,” he added, noting many substantive reform measures already underway:
Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants and mandates the use of body cameras for officers serving search warrants.
Creation of a civilian police review board and Office of Inspector General to add a new layer of independent review to Louisville Metro Police Department disciplinary matters, as well as work to change state law to bolster this new system with subpoena power.
Encouraging officers to volunteer in the neighborhoods they serve and establishing a housing credit program to incentivize officers to live within a Qualified Census Tract.
A commitment to establishing a system to have the best first responder on each call, whether it is a social worker or a police officer.
And, after a national search, hiring a new police chief, Erika Shields, “who has the skill and the commitment to act on these recommendations for reform.”
Shields said of the report: “It does us no good to try to sugarcoat it: We have challenges. We have work to do. And, we are going to do it, together.”
Since its inception in 2004, Hillard Heintze has helped dozens of public safety and law enforcement agencies at all levels of government and is among the nation’s leading public safety consulting firms. Among its high-profile work, Hillard Heintze helped drive the critical advancements in policing called for in the Final Report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing: Transparency, Accountability, and Better Community Engagement. The U.S. Department of Justice chose Hillard Heintze as the sole provider for the Community Oriented Policing Services Office Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance — the largest U.S. program to advance police transformations and reform in cities and universities across the U.S.
Hillard Heintze was selected in collaboration with Metro Council President David James.
The Mayor praised Hillard Heintze for its work to engage the community in the review process, including a community survey that drew 7,805 responses, as well as a separate opportunity for residents to email Hillard Heintze with thoughts, concerns and suggestions. Hillard Heintze representatives also made several onsite visits, conducting interviews, observing training, and participating in ride-alongs with officers.
“Community involvement was key, because we believe public safety is something we co-produce,” the Mayor said, while pledging to share regular progress reports with the community to ensure transparency and accountability.
In closing, the Mayor noted that while the report shows serious challenges that must be addressed, “let’s keep in mind that LMPD employs about 1,100 police officers, sworn to serve and protect about 770,000 people. That’s more than 700 people for every one police officer. So, it’s clear that reimagining public safety does not stop with this report” or police reform alone.
“As a society, we too often ask police to address all of society’s problems – because we’ve failed to make necessary investments to address poverty, mental health, domestic violence, substance use and other challenges. And because we’ve failed to face up to the reality of structural racism, which keeps far too many of our neighbors from opportunity, from access, from hope,” the Mayor said. “So today, beyond the police reform I guarantee will happen, we must also commit to serious, intentional and cooperative action on those other challenges – those root causes of violence and inequity – as well.
“As I’ve said before: We face a choice today, and it’s not about Black vs. white, or demonstrators vs. police. It’s about the past vs. the future. One we can’t change, and one we will– by working together,” he said. “America’s eyes have been on Louisville for months now. So, let’s show the nation what we can do. Let’s come together and be that American city that takes itself from tragedy to transformation. Together.”