Mayor Fischer releases update on substantive changes made in wake of Breonna Taylor’s tragic death
As the second anniversary of the tragic death of Breonna Taylor approaches, Mayor Greg Fischer today released an update on the many substantive changes initiated over the past two years, and the work still ahead to build a city of true equity and justice.
“When I took office in 2011, one of three core values I set for our community was to become a city of even greater compassion, which for us, means creating the opportunities for every person, in every neighborhood, to reach their full potential,” the Mayor said. “And while we had made great strides on that commitment – really, a commitment to equity – the events of 2020 showed us we must do more, must invest more and move more quickly. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since.”
Among changes made over the past two years, specific to the Louisville Metro Police Department:
- Implemented Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants and expands requirements for officers’ use of body cameras.
- Contracted with nationally recognized public safety consulting firm Hillard Heintze to conduct a top-to-bottom review of LMPD, which outlined areas of weakness and provided a guidebook for improvement.
- Strengthened use-of-force policies and rules on use of tear gas.
- Changed LMPD policy regarding an officer’s duty to intervene in the event he or she sees a fellow officer using excessive force.
- Made reforms in search warrant and currency seizure policies.
- Approved and funded a pilot program to deflect a number of 911 calls to a non-police response focused on problem-solving, de-escalation and referral to appropriate community services. The city approved a contract with Seven Counties Services to run the program, which is expected to begin later this month.
- Established a Civilian Review and Accountability Board and Office of Inspector General and hired Ed Harness as the city’s first Inspector General.
- Changed LMPD leadership, naming Erika Shields as Chief after a national search with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), and hiring Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel as Deputy Chief, to help lead the way in building police-community trust.
- Launched a new Louisville Metro Police Activities League (PAL) to bring together kids, cops and communities through a variety of out-of-school-time activities, camps, clubs and sports – creating opportunities for mentorship, and for young people and officers to interact in a positive environment. The program started in January 2022 and already 150 kids have been active in boxing, basketball, and culinary programs with the guidance of 25 LMPD officers. The program will expand later this year to include other activities like fishing and cross country.
- Added a $5,000 incentive to officers to purchase a primary residence in a qualified census tract and we continue to encourage this homeownership opportunity.
- Implemented an Early Intervention System in late 2021 to alert supervisors to sudden behavioral changes in officers or other factors, such as use of force, sick leave usage and vehicle accidents. Alerts will prompt supervisors to address potentially problematic behaviors and, if appropriate, find ways to redirect.
- Expanded LMPD policy to ensure all officers are randomly tested once a year.
- Formed the clergy de-escalation team to respond to scenes of community trauma and serve as a resource for those impacted by tragedy.
- Implemented a new Accountability and Improvement Bureau that will:
- Create new training positions, including a full-time legal instructor, a curriculum writer and academic director;
- Establish an Internal Audit Unit to review use of force investigations, domestic violence response, wearable video system compliance and other critical areas;
- Establish a Performance Review Board to evaluate use of force incidents and provide swift feedback to improve officer performance, additional training, and recommend needed changes to policy, equipment, supervision and communications; and
- Create a Wellness Unit, which will include a full-time psychologist, counselors, and a full-time Chaplain to support officers’ mental health and well-being.
In addition, the city has fundamentally changed the Collective Bargaining Agreement with the FOP to enhance accountability and documentation, including:
- Limitations on promotions for officers with sustained findings of bias, untruthfulness, open criminal charges or pending criminal investigations;
- Limitations on militarized equipment;
- Elimination of requirements that some complaints against officers be destroyed after 90 days;
- Making permanent past disciplinary findings involving excessive use of force, sexual misconduct, bias, criminal activity, and truthfulness;
- Requiring more drug and alcohol testing for officers, especially after critical incidents; and
- Subordinating the agreement to state law changes.
Also, as a result of their conduct in the Breonna Taylor case, LMPD Officer Brett Hankison was fired in 2020, and Officers Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes were fired in 2021. The city will continue to defend these terminations on appeal.
The Mayor has described all this work as critical to reach the goal of LMPD becoming the best police department in the nation, and noted that more changes are coming as the city continues working with the Department of Justice on its review of the department.
The Mayor also reminds residents that “reimagining public safety requires broader reform, across our city and our nation. Just like public health, public safety is too big for any one entity to be responsible for – and it’s something we all have a role in creating.”
To that end, the city’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22 invests in a public safety system based a “whole of government” and “whole of city” approach, including: community mobilization, prevention, intervention, enforcement, organizational change and development, and re-entry.
And recognizing that crime is often driven by poverty and lack of opportunity and hope, the city has made significant investments in affordable housing ($40 million this year, bringing the total to more than $100 million since 2011), eviction prevention ($89 million in rental assistance this year), supporting small businesses, especially Black-owned small businesses, as well as support for programs like Evolve502, SummerWorks, Tech Louisville and the Future of Work initiative.
In closing, the Mayor urges residents to get involved in the “whole of city” approach to public safety, using the pain of 2020 to fuel the work necessary to create a stronger, more unified, more equitable and just city: “That is how we ensure this type of tragedy never happens again. That is the way forward.”