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Metro Council Passes Scaled-Back Funding Request From Middletown Police

A police officer watches as protesters disperse from NuLu on Sept. 25, 2020.
A police officer watches as protesters disperse from NuLu on Sept. 25, 2020.

The Middletown Police Department has secured $10,000 in funding from Louisville's Metro Council, weeks after the legislative body sent the measure back to committee over concerns the request for riot gear and non-lethal munitions was "tone deaf."

Council member Anthony Piagentini (R-19) sponsored the ordinance, which now allocates money from his district's $65,000 discretionary fund to reimburse spending on "mobile radio upgrades and ballistic helmets with face shields."

He said during Thursday's meeting that Louisville Metro Police Department recently switched to encrypted radios, so Middletown needed to upgrade their technology to work with Louisville's. Middletown police provide support to LMPD's 8th Division, he said.

"A few weeks ago, when everybody was on call, there were only 2 officers from Middletown Police Department who were in the jurisdiction of Middletown," Piagentini said, alluding to recent large protests in the city. "The rest were assigned throughout the city to assist and support.”

He said about $8,000 of the $10,000 will go toward upgrading the radios so  Middletown police can properly communicate with LMPD, with the rest paying for some helmets. The helmets, he said, are for situations in which officers may risk "bodily injury."

The original ordinance called items such as the helmets, pepper spray, and pepper ball guns "needed safety equipment." In its application for the funds, the Middletown police said the helmets would be used for active shooter situations, COVID-19 issues and civil unrest. Civil unrest was also a justification for the other items, while the application additionally indicated pepper ball guns would be used for "people in crisis (mental or alcohol/drugs)."

Middletown is located in eastern Jefferson County. Its city hall is about 15 miles from Louisville's, in the heart of downtown where protests over racial injustice have been centered since late May.

Councilman Rick Blackwell (D-12), chair of the appropriations committee, stated his concerns about the funding request in a mid-September meeting, during which council members sent the measure back to committee for reworking.

"We’re in the middle of metro-wide discussion about how we use weapons and how we deescalate issues and social unrest,” he said. “It just feels tone deaf to me.”

The new version passed unanimously out of committee last week, and had no opposition Thursday night.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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