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Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg discusses LMPD accountability, future goals

Man seated at table in front of microphone speaks to another man
Nico Phillips
/
Louisville Metro Government
Mayor Craig Greenberg responded to two recent high-profile incidents related to police in an interview with LPM News on Dec. 21, 2023.

As Louisville’s first new mayor in more than a decade, Craig Greenberg is overseeing a city still reckoning with how to regain public trust in the police department. He spoke about recent Louisville Metro Police Department issues, as well as plans for 2024, in an interview with LPM News.

In March, the U.S. Department of Justice released its report into Louisville police misconduct, determining officers routinely violated civil rights. The two-year investigation’s findings matched decades of concerns from many locals, especially Black residents. The city is expected to negotiate a consent decree with the DOJ that could implement court-monitored reforms on the police department.

The report reflects reasons residents lack trust in police, a long-documented issue. Last month, Greenberg’s administration released a gun violence dashboard, which shows annual homicides were significantly higher in the past three years compared to the 2010s.

In 2023, the city named Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel as LMPD police chief, initially in an interim role. She has overseen the department through challenges, including the DOJ report and the Old National Bank mass shooting. She’s also attracted recent criticism for inaccurate testimony she gave during a civil trial.

And this week, the Courier Journal publicly released videos of “Slushygate” incidents from 2018-19, when LMPD officers threw drinks on residents. Officers and supervisors that participated in these attacks faced different consequences, ranging from suspension or resignation to federal convictions.

LPM’s Jacob Munoz spoke with Greenberg about his views on the police department and his administration’s goals for 2024. This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

In March, the Department of Justice announced its report on the police department, which found routine violations of civil rights. After that, you said you wanted to make LMPD “the most trained, trusted and transparent police department in America.” With that in mind, I'd like your reaction to two recent events: The police chief's untruthful statement under oath and the newly published videos of officers repeatedly throwing slushy drinks at residents. How do these incidents impact trust and local police? And what is your approach to address that?

The incidents regarding “Slushygate,” totally unacceptable. Those events happened in 2019, before the chief was with LMPD, long before I even started running for mayor. But those are unacceptable. If we look at where we are today, we have a new chief, we have new leadership across all of LMPD, that unit has been disbanded. The worst offenders in that incident have been convicted of crimes and are in prison, several of the members are no longer with LMPD and the others have been disciplined by this chief herself. As we move forward, we are focused still on making sure we have the best trained, the most trusted and the most transparent LMPD. And activities like that are not tolerated by the chief or me. They are not and will not be.

You mentioned that these officers have faced discipline, in some instances, or have resigned from the department. But there are at least some who are still working there. Does that at all strike you as impacting public trust?

I think it's important that the chief has handed out discipline to those individuals. But everyone had a different role to play in this. And she handed out discipline that she thought was commensurate with the action that that particular individual happened. They're very clear, this type of behavior will not be tolerated. Again, if this happens again, it will be different next time.

Did the police chief's testimony under oath at all present to you something that might impact community trust?

The police chief, after her testimony, she very quickly acknowledged that she misspoke during her testimony. And so that was a misstatement that she immediately corrected. And we're moving on.

Do you think LMPD leadership in general adequately disciplines officers when they're doing something wrong? Are there any sort of changes you'd like to see in terms of how that's handled?

I believe that the chief is very focused on discipline with LMPD in a very different way than has been the practice in the past. It's important to thoroughly investigate allegations of inappropriate incidents, and then hand out discipline in a timely, impactful way, based on what that incident was. And I believe that chief is doing that and will continue to do that.

And in this past year, your administration has announced a lot of plans, a lot of priorities for the future. Looking at this upcoming year, 2024, what will it take to be labeled as a success for your administration and what sorts of goals do you have planned for it?

The plans that we've implemented, those seeds will start to sprout in the coming months and years, and people will see projects throughout our parks system that are being completed, new libraries from Fern Creek to Portland, Parkland that are being reopened or that are that are opening, more housing units being built, or downtown continuing its resurgence. So it is the safest, cleanest, greenest, most vibrant, authentic and unique neighborhood in our entire city. That's the heart of our city where people want to live and do so much more and be entertained. These are all some of the things of why I'm so excited for the new year and beyond.

Jacob is LPM's Business and Development Reporter. Email Jacob at jmunoz@lpm.org.