In the summer of 2020, America was rocked by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Louisville’s own Breonna Taylor. Social justice demonstrations not seen since the late 1960s occurred in 2,000 American cities, including more than 100 continuous nights in our city. It was a time of pain, reflection and determination to rebuild police-community trust.
In anticipation of the findings of a Department of Justice Patterns and Practice investigation, we’d like to share our progress and the vital work yet to be done as we work to reimagine public safety.
Public safety has always been Metro Government’s single greatest responsibility. Every agency, not just the Louisville Metro Police Department, plays a role – and together, your city government, your police department and you, our residents, are making the necessary progress.
After Breonna Taylor’s death, for third-party neutrality we turned the internal LMPD investigation over to the state attorney general and the FBI. To determine any areas for improvement within LMPD, we commissioned by Hillard Heintze to conduct an independent review of our police practices.
The city quickly settled a civil suit with Breonna’s family. For accountability, due process was our guide, which we know was frustrating to some because of the time involved, but ultimately the process led to the firing of several officers as well as federal indictments. We are appreciative of the federal investigation in the Breonna Taylor case, as an impartial examination was essential for the integrity of the findings.
Louisville mayor, LMPD chief:DOJ findings expected within the ‘coming weeks’
In April 2021, when the Department of Justice announced its investigation into LMPD, we committed to full cooperation. But we have not waited on the DOJ findings to continue our reforms.
We hired a reform-minded LMPD chief in Erika Shields and have implemented numerous changes, from banning no-knock warrants to revising our search warrant policies. To date, 84% of the Hillard Heintze reform recommendations are either complete or in process. Visit louisville-police.org, click on LMPD Transparency to study the details.
To build a model police force, we increased training, technology investments, and compensation. We have created an LMPD Accountability and Improvement Bureau focused on reform, auditing and training.
Importantly, we have made unprecedented investments in the non-police areas of public safety. Our Office for Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods got a big boost this past year in the form of federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars, which allowed us to fully fund OSHN for the first time. This has fueled systemic outreach efforts, new programs for violence intervention and prevention, and deflection options for mental health support instead of law enforcement intervention.
We understand that trust and accountability for institutions such as law enforcement must increase. To that end, we created a Citizens Review and Accountability Board give an Office of Inspector General.
While we have much work ahead to realize our goal to become a model city for racial equity and justice, we have made significant progress while expanding on our whole-of-government approach to public safety.
In the coming weeks, we expect the DOJ will release its investigation letter so we can compare its findings to the work we have completed and get to work on open issues.
In the meantime, we invite you to take part in an online community conversation about our efforts on my Facebook page on Saturday, Sept. 10, at 2 pm We will provide updates and take your questions.
Our thanks to the LMPD members who step up every day with the goal of becoming the best police department in the nation. The aim must always be constitutional policing in every corner of our city with a department supported by its most valuable assets – our residents.
Our thanks also to the people who never stopped demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. They ensured her name will live as a symbol of the never-ending quest for justice and strong police-community relations.
Words will never lessen the loss of those who are so missed by their loved ones. Our deeds are steps towards honoring their lives.
We will keep working on a community that is pro-police and pro-reform, where we come together to create safe, thriving neighborhoods. There is much work to be done. We are confident we will do it together.
Greg Fischer is the outgoing Mayor of Louisville and Erika Shields is the Chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department
This article originally appeared on the Louisville Courier Journal: How the city is making progress on reimagining public safety: Opinion