Mayor Fischer cautions protesters to be peaceful tonight; announces more steps to improve police-community relations

May 29, 2020

Citing the expectation of additional protests related to the Breonna Taylor case, Mayor Greg Fischer this afternoon urged protesters to be peaceful, parents to keep their kids at home, and others to stay away from downtown.

“Given what happened last night – the violence, seven people shot – I just don’t think it’s a safe place for our kids to be,” the Mayor said. “And really, if you’re not here to protest, it’s just a good idea for everyone to stay away from downtown tonight. Even a peaceful protest – which is what we pray for tonight – creates significant traffic issues and other challenges.”

Mayor Fischer also reminded protesters that our city is still in the middle of a pandemic. “Just today, we reported 65 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, bringing our total to 2,550. And sadly, we've lost 2 additional people to this disease – 161 in total. I saw many protesters last night wearing masks. Please be safe with your health and with the health of others.” 

The Mayor and LMPD Col. Lavita Chavous, who is Incident Commander for the protest response, both acknowledged that the protests reflect “the anger, the hurt, frustration and exhaustion of so many in the community and country,” who are, as the Mayor said, “sick of seeing story after story of black lives ending at the hands of law enforcement.”

But the Mayor urged people to remember what the Taylor family has said about what Breonna would want in a time like this, as they outlined in a message they asked Metro to share today:

“Breonna devoted her own life to saving other lives, to helping others, to making people smile and to bringing people together. The last thing she’d want to see right now is anymore violence. Changes are being made, but it’s not enough. We will not stop until there is truth, justice and accountability. Breonna’s legacy will not be forgotten and it’s because of all of us saying her name and demanding justice. We are saying her name more each day. Thank you! Please keep saying her name. Please keep demanding justice and accountability. But let’s do it the right way, without hurting each other. We can, and we will, make some real change here. Now is the time. Let’s make it happen...but safely. #breewayy”

“Let’s show that we respect that,” the Mayor said, adding that the city respects the right to free speech, but, “We will not tolerate violence, and we will protect our city and our residents from any attempts at violence or property damage.”

Col. Chavous said the LMPD goal Thursday night “was to allow for a peaceful display of community anger and frustration, which we were able to allow during the first several hours of the event.

“However, once we started seeing significant property damage to cars and buildings downtown, small fires started in garbage cans – we had to move in to take more action and try to disperse crowds,” she said, adding that “It wasn’t until after shots were fired in the crowd that officers fired tear gas – and then it was to enable officers to reach victims and provide medical aid. Even with bottles and other objects being thrown at them, their concern was for those people who were hurt.”

Chavous said two officers were taken to the hospital with medical conditions spurred by the event. She added that LMPD would be supported on Friday night by law enforcement from surrounding communities.

Also on Friday afternoon, the Mayor shared several new steps the administration is taking in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death:

  • Signing on to a joint project of the National Institute of Justice and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation to thoroughly review the LMPD handling of the Breonna Taylor case, with the goal of identifying and addressing any systemic flaws, preventing their recurrence, and earning public trust. “The project, called a Sentinel Event Review, is based on the idea that when bad things happen in a complex system like a government or, specifically, a police department, the cause is rarely a single act, event, or mistake,” he said. “More often, bad outcomes are the result of compound errors and signal underlying weaknesses in the system, policies, or processes. As we figure out and address those weaknesses, we can find ways to strengthen the system and prevent future tragedies like the death of Breonna Taylor.”
  • Announcing that the US Attorney has recused himself from the case, and their review will instead be handled by the Civil Division of the US Justice Department. “I certainly support that move,” he said.
  • The Mayor and Metro Council had the first meeting of a Civilian Review Work Group, where he called for swift action to drill down into the various citizen police review models across the country, with the goal of developing a legislative proposal to be passed by Council in July. “And if necessary, we would seek statutory power in Frankfort, so the Civilian Review Board will have subpoena power,” he said.  
  • Announcing the suspension of no-knock warrants indefinitely.

“That is something I heard loud and clear from the public about,” the Mayor said, adding that the city has move swiftly on other called-for changes as well:

  • An independent investigation. The LMPD’s Public Integrity Unit turned its file into Ms. Taylor’s death over to Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, to the U.S. Attorney’s Office and to the FBI. And the FBI has begun its own independent investigation into Ms. Taylor’s death.
  • End no-knock warrants. That’s been done.
  • New leadership at LMPD. Chief Conrad is retiring next month, and besides a new Chief, the city has a new layer of oversight with Public Safety Chief Amy Hess.
  • Release the 911 call from the night of March 13. The city did this Thursday, along with ALL calls related to this incident.
  • Drop the charges against Kenneth Walker. Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine did that last week.
  • Body cameras for all officers: All sworn officers now will have body cameras.
  • Strong Civilian Review. The Mayor’s office is working with Council to create this board and give it teeth. 

Acknowledging that the main unanswered request is to fire the three officers involved in this case, the Mayor said, “This is not a swift process.” He outlined that under Kentucky state and local law, as well as the collective bargaining agreement, there is a process the city is required to follow: 

  • First, the Public Integrity Unit investigation focuses on possible violations of state law on the part of the involved police employees. The Kentucky Attorney General’s Office will decide whether criminal charges should be filed.
  • Once this charging decision has been made, the Professional Standards Unit will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the matter to determine if any of the involved employees violated department policies. Sustained violations of department policy can result in disciplinary actions ranging from counseling to termination.
  • Any sustained discipline involving a suspension or termination is subject to appeal to the Police Merit Board and Jefferson County Circuit Court.
  • Next, after the investigations are complete, the existing Citizens Commission for Police Accountability will review for failed processes and procedures; the Commission can make recommendations for changes in policy and/or training.

The Mayor closed by noting that, “This is an extraordinarily emotional time in our city and country. We – all of us as residents – will dictate what the legacy of the Breonna Taylor tragedy will be. We have moved with speed to make systemic policy change, as a result of positive community conversation, demands and collaboration. THAT is the way to enact change.” 

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