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Louisville Mayor Says Facts Must Come First In Breonna Taylor Investigation

Mayor Greg Fischer at WFPL's studios last year.
Mayor Greg Fischer at WFPL's studios last year.

Calls for an independent investigation into the shooting of a Louisville EMS worker are growing, two months after 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot and killed inside her home by Louisville police officers. NPR's Ari Shapiro spoke with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer about the shooting and subsequent investigation. This interview has been edited lightly for clarity.

Why weren't the officers in this drug interdiction unit required to wear body cameras?

Our narcotics officers are undercover officers. As such they don’t wear body cameras.

You say they don't wear body cameras, but do you think that that's a mistake in policy? Do you think that they ought to? If there were video of this it seems like it would be much more clear cut. 

No body cameras has been the policy to date. As in any incident like this, there's going to be in-depth review to see what could have been improved. I'm sure body cameras are going to come up as part of that discussion. Due to the nature of them being undercover and how they're approaching the situation, it can be complicated, so you've got to see how we can have the maximum amount of transparency and then protect our police officers at the same time. So I'm sure that's going to be an issue that will be looked into. 

You've said that any loss of life is a tragedy -- that's something you've said a couple of times. Do you think you owe the family an apology? Is it enough to just say any loss of life is a tragedy?

What's important, I think, for everybody is, let's get all the facts in this first. I mean, people want these situations to be simple and easy, and they're not. And that's the purpose of the investigation process that takes place here. And so we're in the middle of that process right now. Just like we have on other situations like this, what I focus on is the truth and nothing but the truth. And then that's where the justice is going to play out after that.

How can you reassure people who doubt that the investigation will be fair and impartial? Who believe that the investigation will exonerate the officers, whether or not they did anything wrong?

I have a history and we have a history in this city of, when it appears like there has been investigations that have not been complete, that I've called for independent investigations. I won't hesitate to do that again if there is an investigation required by the state or federal, we absolutely will cooperate with that as well.

I mean, it is important that people have confidence in the justice system. I understand why some people do not, and that part of my job is to try to lift that trust up through action that gets people to understand that, not just the complexity of these situations, but be comfortable that the investigations and reviews have been taken in as thorough a manner as absolutely possible.

Apparently the officers had a no-knock warrant. If that's the case, why are the officers now saying that they identified themselves before they entered the home? If they had a no-knock warrant it seems that they would not have identified themselves, which is what neighbors have said.

That would be the discretion of the police officers when they're initiating their activity. A no-knock warrant, a judge has to sign off on that. It's normally because there's some concern about evidence being destroyed, or a potential danger for the officers. So they certainly had the right to go in with no knock. But the investigation will determine whether or not that happened.

I understand that you want to be cautious while an investigation is ongoing, but there is so much sadness and anger right now, not only with this incident, but also with the death of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Can you speak to the people who feel that justice has not been and will not be served? I know you're saying the investigation will be fair and will run it's course, but can you just speak to the people who are really feeling a lot of pain and anger right now?

Ari, there’s four hundred years of historical legacy in this country, of treating people of color in a different way than the majority population, from the arrival of the first ship of enslaved people in Hampton, Virginia. And there has always been a disproportionate power dynamic between communities of color and the majority white community and a very difficult relationship between law enforcement and communities of color as well.

And as we've seen in particular over these last five years or so, some of these tragedies that are now caught on camera, and just enrage people. And for everybody to see this is what's happened, not just these last five years, but a lot of these things have been going on for centuries, as I've said. So whenever there is incidents involving our communities of color and law enforcement and any community, for that matter, people are skeptical that justice is going to be served. And I understand that. And my job as mayor is to make sure that my only concern is that truth is served and then justice follows.

I don't have any constituency that I'm serving other than the people, and the truth. It's not any department. It's not any interest group. And that's how I will continue to conduct my business here in the mayor's office.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer thank you for speaking with us.

OK, thank you, Ari.

Laura is LPM's Director of Podcasts & Special Projects. Email Laura at lellis@lpm.org.