Report on Explorers finds mistakes were made, but no “orchestrated effort to cover up misconduct”
Former U.S. Attorney Kerry B. Harvey’s 90-page report on allegations surrounding the Louisville Metro Police Department Explorer program found the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) made mistakes in oversight of the program and in its investigation of the allegations, but concluded there was "no ongoing, orchestrated effort to cover up misconduct.”
Mayor Greg Fischer, who ordered the Harvey investigation after learning the extent of the allegations last year, said today, “As I said when I ordered this investigation, we have to get to the bottom of these disturbing allegations — for ourselves, for our citizens, for the thousands of LMPD officers who are honest, compassionate, courageous people of integrity. We need to know the truth. And, most importantly, for the victims of anyone who may have committed a crime while wearing an LMPD uniform.”
Mayor Fischer had instructed Mr. Harvey to evaluate five issues:
A review of the internal processes, policies and procedures concerning the Explorers program;
A review of whether any employment laws may have been violated;
A review of whether any ethics laws may have been violated;
The sufficiency of the checks and balances within the LMPD professional standards and public integrity components; and
A timeline showing when information or accusations were first shown, to whom same were reported, as well as subsequent actions and whether such actions followed Metro practices and policies.
An initial review finds that the report includes background on the program, facts about the cases against former LMPD officers Brandon Wood and Kenneth Betts, and a narrative on the Harvey investigation.
It concludes, “Our review leads us to conclude that mistakes were made and policy was not rigidly followed. We also reviewed the work of many LMPD officers striving mightily to do the right thing in the right way. While we do not believe that there was, as some have asserted, a massive coverup of misconduct in the senior ranks of the LMPD, there are lessons to be learned from this episode.”
The report also includes a section on false rumors, and found the following:
“The investigative team has confirmed that no public funds have been paid to settle any claims related to the Explorer program.” (Page 60)
“Chief [Steve] Conrad did nothing to prematurely end or limit the 2013 PSU investigation.” (Page 60)
Regarding a rumor that the Mayor’s office interfered with the 2016 investigation, the report found, “Chief Conrad believes that he told Deputy Mayor [Ellen] Hesen about the 2013 PSU Betts investigation in late 2013 or early 2014 during one of their regular meetings.” He said he did not have a special meeting to discuss the matter with her, but “in passing” shared that there was a PSU matter involving an inappropriate text message exchange with a teenager. This occurred, he said, after subordinates told him there appeared to be no criminal conduct on Betts’ part. He said he had no discussion of this matter with Mayor Fischer. (Page 60)
“We conclude that the suggestion that Deputy Mayor Hesen, or anyone else in the Mayor’s office, demanded weekly or regularly scheduled briefings from the PIU detectives is false.” (Page 67)
The report also says that Harvey’s team interviewed Mayor Fischer twice. “Mayor Fischer learned of the Betts and Wood misconduct in October 2016. He requested and received a briefing from PIU in November 2016.” It notes that the Mayor directed an internal review into the Explorer program in March 2017, along with an FBI investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct within the program.
The report touched on the potential for resuming the LMPD Explorer Program, but both Chief Conrad and Mayor Fischer said today that there is no plan to resume the program.
Regarding the operation of the Special Investigations Division, the report makes these recommendations:
Conflicts of Interest: “Adopt a rigorous conflicts of interest policy for the Special Investigations Division.”
Legal review of PSU determinations: “We recommend that a policy be implemented requiring a review by attorneys, presumably prosecutors with the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office, in PSU matters involving serious allegations of misconduct.”
Consider term-limiting assignments to the Special Investigations Division.
The report includes redactions, made by the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office and lawyers for the Mayor and the Louisville Metro Council, of content that:
Would be in conflict to federal court orders;
Would be in violation of state or federal statutes if released; or
Could identify victims.
After his initial review of the report, Mayor Fischer said, “I am deeply angry about the disturbing allegations of abuse against children outlined in the report, as well as violations of the community’s trust. It is also clear that mistakes were made and must be addressed.”
The Mayor said he and his team, including Chief Conrad, would further review the report and quickly begin implementing appropriate changes.
The Mayor also noted that his office has not waited for this report to take action, including ordering a separate review of all city programs that involve children and teenagers, to ensure adequate steps are in place to protect youth. After that review was completed in March, the city announced it is expanding its internal policies to better prevent and respond to child abuse in any youth-serving program. He also, along with Council President David James, asked the FBI’s Louisville office to investigate potential violations of federal law related to the allegations. That investigation is ongoing.
Mayor Fischer thanked Mr. Harvey and his team for their work. “Our utmost goal with this report was the truth,” Mayor Fischer said. “I appreciate their diligence and hard work, which gets us one step closer to the justice.