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Louisville residents call for charges against protestors to be dropped and question LMPD, city officials at public forum

Mayor Greg Fischer and Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields presented police and public safety reforms that have been implemented since 2020 at a public virtual forum on Saturday. 

The police killing of Breonna Taylor in March 2020 sparked months of city-wide protests and national media attention. Last month, the Department of Justice indicted four former LMPD police officers in connection to her death.

“We acknowledge that we have a lot to do, but a lot of work has been done,” Shields said at the forum.

Members of the public were able to directly respond to Fischer and Shields and ask questions at the forum, which was streamed on the mayor’s Facebook page. Dozens of people watching the stream asked questions, but only around ten were answered. Officials did not clarify how those questions were selected.

One of the first questions Shields answered was about LMPD’s hiring practices and whether psychiatric evaluations were part of that process.

“Obviously, we have a hiring need and the department is lagging in the area of minorities,” Shields said.

She said policing took a large hit in 2020 and is recovering from a loss of workers and decreased interest from new applicants. Shields said the field as a whole needs to rebrand if it wants to successfully recruit new workers.

“I believe that the pendulum will come back,” Shields said.

In response to the psychiatric evaluations being part of the hiring process, Shields said they are required for any new hires. If the psychologists conducting the exam find the applicant unfit for the job, they aren’t hired by LMPD.

Several people asked questions about community outreach and investment by the city in historically underfunded neighborhoods. The Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods has been at the forefront of the city’s work in community investments.

The department received $23 million in American Rescue Plan funding to address violence prevention programs.

“Ninety percent of that funds go directly back to the community and funding community-led programs to address violence, particularly gun violence in communities,” said Paul Callanan, assistant director of programs for the department.

Callanan said areas that received that funding are chosen based on gun violence trends in the city.

“Violence impacts each neighborhood differently across our city and in order to be most effective, we have to give those residents, those people who live in those neighborhoods both a voice in determining which strategies are best for them and then ownership over those strategies,” Callahan said.

Another recurring question during the forum was in relation to dropping charges against protestors from the 2020 demonstrations.

“That is up to the County Attorney to do that,” Fischer said. “So he’s evaluating each one of those. Obviously, it depends on what the allegation is, whether or not they’re going to be charged.”

Fischer pointed out the Jefferson County Attorney is a separately elected position and not part of his office.

A large portion of the forum was spent overviewing the reforms the city has put in place so far, nearly all of which had already been made public.

Many people watching the forum expressed their disappointment with the lack of questions answered and the time spent overviewing previously-announced reforms.

Some called for a town hall-style event where people could ask questions and raise concerns in person to Fischer, Shields and other involved departments.

According to city officials, Metro Government sped up changes in public safety efforts and police reforms after Breonna Taylor’s killing.

Some of the city’s reforms have included banning the use of no-knock warrants, the type police used to access Taylor’s home.

Additionally, the Civilian Review and Accountability Board was established and increased officer pay by 21%.

LMPD and Metro Government are still waiting for the results and recommendations from the Department of Justice’s Patterns and Practice investigation.

Breya Jones is the Arts & Culture Reporter for LPM. Email Breya at bjones@lpm.org.

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