The Metro Council continues to focus on police reform. Last week, council committees debated my excessive force ordinance (co-authored by District 1 Councilwoman Jessica Green) and, also, the new police union contract. The results were a mixed bag.
The Public Safety Committee recommended for disapproval (3:4) An Ordinance Requiring the Incorporation of Certain Limitations on Police Use of Force Into Louisville Metro Police Department Policies, with the majority arguing that – as I understand it – the legislation infringes on the police chief’s policy autonomy. Respectfully, I think banning chokeholds and shooting at moving vehicles, requiring de-escalation, a use of force continuum, exhausting all alternatives and warning before shooting, a duty to intervene and comprehensive reporting are exactly fit for codification as a means of putting broad guardrails around public safety within which the chief retains the flexibility necessary to execute the law. Not only do regional (Akron), peer (St. Louis) and cities from Washington (D.C.) to Washington (Seattle) agree but logic would dictate that Mayor Greg Fischer, who sent an Open Letter to Jefferson County Legislative Delegation, House and Senate Leadership dated September 10, 2020, asking the Kentucky General Assembly to enact at least five of the policies into state law, should, too. Moreover, current LMPD Standard Operating Procedures substantially comport with the ordinance (maybe 80-85%), so it is a mystery to me why the administration would not endorse it before the whole council votes tomorrow (10/22) evening. It seems to me like a layup for a city and police department that desperately needs a bucket. Notwithstanding, it will be a close final tally.
Meanwhile, to my surprise and relief, the Labor and Economic Development Committee tabled (i.e. postponed voting on) the new police union contract after 100 minutes of (generally unsatisfactory) Q&A. I delivered these remarks:
Police officers and other first responders deserve to be adequately compensated and rewarded for the risks they take every day to serve our community. I think the salary change and benefits in this contract would help the city to retain and attract better employees. Specifically, I want to commend the police union for again bargaining for paid parental leave for its members. I believe they are the only Metro Government employees to receive this benefit, and it is a policy we should improve upon and extend to every new parent who works at Metro.
However, condition of employment number one for all city workers – especially, police officers – must be total and complete accountability for their actions. Full accountability is not just missing from this contract; the document expressly exempts the police from personal responsibility in at least a half-dozen, different, dangerous ways.
I understand that state law – KRS 67C.326 and other sections – needs to be changed to toughen investigations into alleged misconduct; to fully empower the new civilian review board; to unmuzzle the truth about ongoing matters; and more. But giving officers their body cam footage to prepare for an interrogation involving their own alleged misconduct; suspending officers substantiated of outrageous criminal conduct with pay; limiting the consideration of past discipline in a progressive discipline system; destroying personnel files; and other practices contemplated by this agreement are within our local authority to end, and so we must.
These are reasonable, prudent departmental controls to require now, not nine months from now – if ever. Remember: the expiring contract has been extended for two and a half years. The new contract requires 150 days’ notice to alter the 250-day deal. That means we could be stuck with this agreement for eight years, too. Not to mention the terms and conditions that are not included in it. Whatever happened to diversity, recruiting and training?
In addition to these concerns, there are legal questions about the convoluted and conflated standards and procedures surrounding disciplinary matters, employment decisions and citizen complaints. The council needs clarity and understanding on these issues before voting in good conscience on any new police union contract.
I am not a member of this committee but I will be a no vote if the agreement is sent to the whole council. I urge the committee to send the negotiators back to the drawing board instead.
The debate continues on November 2 at 3:00pm, at a two-hour Special Meeting of the Labor and Economic Development Committee. Again, the vote is too close to call.
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Speaking of voting, non-mail-in voters (regardless of their precinct) may now vote early at any of the Louisville Marriott East, Kentucky Exposition Center, KFC Yum Center and Kentucky Center for African-American Heritage on Monday-Saturday 8:30am-4:30pm until November 2. On Election Day (11/3), these four locations and 16 others will also be available as vote centers (again, regardless of precinct). Wear a mask and on Election Day ride the bus for free. It will be a long day/week/month/winter, so the least you can do is avoid any long waits or lines to make your vote count.
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In anticipation of what is likely to be a busy and anxiety-ridden morning after Election Day, District 8 eNews will skip November 4 and return November 18 (or abscond to Canada). Au revoir!
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