Mayor advocates for police reform to bring accountability and transparency
Mayor Greg Fischer today updated the community on changes he’s pursuing on police reform, including contacting the Kentucky State Police (KSP) to conduct the investigation in LMPD officer-involved shootings where a person is killed or injured.
In his remarks, the Mayor also addressed questions that residents have raised about the Breonna Taylor case, as well as “how we got here, and where do we go from here.”
The Mayor described this as a challenging “and, in many ways, painful time for our city and our country,” as we simultaneously deal with the COVID-19 health crisis, an economic downturn, and calls for racial justice.
“Breonna’s tragic death is an open wound for Breonna’s family, for protestors and their families, for me and my family, for our entire city, and for all of us as human beings,” the Mayor said. “And it’s especially painful for our Black community, as I’ve heard, seen and felt up close, in talking with protesters individually and in groups – people who feel the impact of Breonna’s death in a raw and visceral way. I will always be grateful for the honesty and directness of these often heartbreaking conversations. I am listening and learning from these conversations.”
The Mayor acknowledged the frustration that people feel about the slow pace of justice in the Breonna Taylor case, noting that LMPD has turned over its Public Integrity Unit file to Attorney General Daniel Cameron’s office and complied with all requests for additional information and material.
“I have no control or influence over that process, or the additional independent investigations being conducted by the Department of Justice and FBI,” the Mayor said, “and I am as frustrated as you are by how long it’s all taking.
“But while we are waiting for these investigative outcomes, I’m not waiting to pursue the cause of racial justice in Louisville, and particularly the need for public safety reform,” he said, outlining steps already taken, including:
- Signing Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants, and mandates the use of body cameras for police officers serving search warrants;
- Installing new leadership at LMPD, and conducting a national search for a permanent chief with major public involvement;
- Hiring an independent outside firm to conduct a top-to-bottom review of LMPD to help us understand strengths as well as identify weaknesses, and implement changes necessary to improve public safety;
- Working to create an independent civilian police review board with subpoena power, to bring greater accountability and transparency;
- And strengthening the rules governing an officer’s duty to intervene.
“These are substantial changes, but we know they are not enough,” the Mayor said, outlining further changes he’s seeking to ensure greater transparency and accountability. That includes:
- Independent Investigation of Officer-Involved Shootings Where Someone is Killed or Injured: Contacting the KSP to do an independent investigation in the event of an officer-involved shooting where a person is killed or injured, rather than LMPD.
- Increasing Transparency on Investigations: Pursuing a change to state law KRS 67c, which “imposes essentially a gag order on what I can say publicly about matters related to any kind of investigation being conducted by LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit.” That needs to change, he said, adding, “While we don’t want to jeopardize an ongoing investigation or compromise the rights of officers or civilians, we have to be able to address the public’s right to know what’s happening.”
- Strengthening Civilian Oversight of Police Investigations: Pursuing change to state law to strengthen civilian oversight of police investigations. “For accountability and transparency, there must be informed, independent civilian involvement from the beginning of an investigation. And we want the Civilian Review Board to have subpoena power, so they can get answers to questions for the people of our city,” the Mayor said.
- Establishing an Office of Inspector General: The Mayor noted that an Office of Inspector General will be established. Created by local ordinance, this office will support the Civilian Review Board by investigating individual complaints against LMPD officers for serious infractions, as well as troublesome patterns and practices.
- Work with the FOP to Create Greater Balance Between Due Process and Transparency: The city also will be working with the FOP through the collective bargaining process “to find ways to strike the right balance between protecting an officers’ right to due process and providing the public with greater transparency and accountability, which are essential to police-community legitimacy and public safety.”
The Mayor noted in his remarks that LMPD employs about 1,100 police officers who are sworn to serve and protect about 770,000 people. “That’s more than 700 people for every one police officer. So, you can see – public safety is only possible when police and the public work together,” he said, adding while police reform is necessary, other changes are needed beyond that to address systemic failures.
The Mayor added that he’s aware that “there are people in our community who are upset at me, for decisions I’ve made or decisions they wish I’d make. I understand that and I hear you. What I ask of you now is to acknowledge that what we’re facing is a choice, and it’s not about Black vs white or protesters vs police. It’s about the past vs the future. One we can’t change, and one we can – if we work together.
In closing, the Mayor said, “This is a critical moment for our city as well as our country. Because of the national interest in justice for Breonna Taylor, America’s eyes are on Louisville. Let’s demonstrate what we already know – that in our city, we have the combination of civic pride, wisdom, courage and compassion to be that American city that takes itself from tragedy to transformation.”