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Louisville Activists Push Back Against Tentative Police Contract

 Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville Public Media
Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.

Louisville Metro Council heard residents’ perspectives on the tentative police contract for the first time Tuesday afternoon.

Mayor Greg Fischer’s administration and the River City FOP Lodge 614, the union representing Louisville Metro Police Department employees, announced they had reached a deal on a new contract in late August, roughly eight months after negotiations began. It includes some reforms and what officials have described as the largest one-time pay increase in department history. The contract also governs how officers are disciplined for violating department policies.

Most of the eight speakers at Tuesday’s Labor and Economic Development Committee meeting wanted Metro Council to vote down the contract.

Rachel Hardy is with The 490 Project, a local grassroots advocacy group that has been following the contract negotiations. Hardy said residents aren’t getting sufficient concessions from the union to justify the proposed 12 percent raise for rank-and-file officers over the next two years.

“Why you would be giving away so many of our tax dollars to police and not asking for everything under the sun that would benefit the community, it’s a lost opportunity,” she said. 

If Metro Council votes against approving the contract, Fischer’s administration and the police union would be forced to go back to the negotiating table. 

Activists with The 490 Project pushed earlier this year to get community observers in the room during the negotiation process. Instead, the Fischer administration agreed to close the meetings to the public, including to Metro Council members.

The group is now trying to pressure Metro Council into demanding stricter changes to the way LMPD operates. They want supervisors’ notes about an officer’s performance and conduct to be part of their permanent personnel file, and they want a clause barring the city from laying off officers removed. Under the proposed contract, supervisors’ notes are destroyed after one year.

While the contract includes two new reform programs that incentivize officers to volunteer while on the clock and purchase homes in Louisville’s low-income neighborhoods, it does not spell out parameters or requirements for the programs.

Cara Tobe with The 490 Project said that could potentially lead to officers misusing the incentives in a way that doesn’t benefit the community.

“There are absolutely zero guidelines in regards to how the police can volunteer their time, where they volunteer their time,” Tobe said. “There’s no structure in place for whether or not it's a 501(c)(3). You could even, in theory, say that these police officers could volunteer for their very own [union].”

A spokesperson for Fischer did not respond to a request for comment on activists’ criticism of the contract.

Metro Council also heard Tuesday from one supporter of the new police contract. 

Louisville resident Thomas Zoeller urged Council members to support the pay raises for officers and argued that “law and order” is “the foundation upon which everything else is built.”

“The men and women willing to go into this line of work are known as the thin blue line between us and all the events that threaten our daily welfare,” Zoeller said. “They willingly assume all of the responsibilities this entails to protect and serve. Should we not be willing to pay a premium for people of this character?”

Metro Council will hold another public hearing on the tentative contract on Monday, September 20. Anyone wanting to speak at the meeting will have to register with the Metro Council Clerk’s office ahead of the meeting, starting September 19 at 3 p.m.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.

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