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In Louisville, official police reform meetings were not scheduled in the West End

Hundreds of protestors gathered in the streets of Louisville to commemorate the one year anniversary of the killing of Breonna Taylor.
J. Tyler Franklin
/
LPM
Hundreds of protestors gathered in the streets of Louisville to commemorate the one year anniversary of the killing of Breonna Taylor. Her death at the hands of Louisville police sparked widespread protests and led to a federal investigation of the police department.

Residents in Louisville’s majority-Black West End are disproportionately subject to police misconduct. But when federal and city officials first scheduled community meetings on reform, they didn’t plan any in west Louisville.

As city consultants and federal officials hold gatherings this week across Louisville to get feedback on reforming the Louisville Metro Police Department and selecting its new police chief, one section of town appears only rarely on the list: the West End.

In April, the U.S. Department of Justice released meeting dates to solicit feedback from the community as it crafts reforms for LMPD. That came after the DOJ released the results of a two-year investigation into LMPD, which found the department routinely violates residents’ civil rights, especially Black residents. West Louisville is a majority-Black section of town, due to historic redlining.

The DOJ’s list includes four in-person evening meetings. None of them were in the West End.

“That's unacceptable,” former state Rep. Attica Scott told LPM News. Scott represented parts of west Louisville during her time in office.

The DOJ did schedule midday office hours at one West End library last week. But Scott said many workers aren’t available until the evening.

“Also our students,” who were in school during the DOJ walk-in hours, said Scott. “Some of the very students that the DOJ report talks about LMPD targeting and harassing.”

Scott said she reached out to DOJ personnel and asked them to hold an evening meeting in the West End. They agreed, and asked Scott to identify a location. She organized the event at her church, Greater Friendship Baptist Church. The DOJ made a flyer, but it was never broadly disseminated.

Asked about the scheduling decision, a DOJ spokesperson sent an emailed statement saying the department planned meetings at “four regional libraries, which are geographically distributed evenly around the Louisville Metro.”

There are several Louisville Free Public Library branches in the West End, but no regional libraries there.

“We have also sought additional opportunities to engage with Louisville residents to ensure their voices are heard,” the spokesperson said in the statement, pointing to the midday office hours at the Shawnee Branch Library last Tuesday, a visit to a church meeting on Friday, and the meeting planned at Scott’s church.

“Louisville residents who would like to share their ideas for constitutional policing reform are encouraged to attend these meetings or contact us via email at Community.Louisville@usdoj.gov or by phone at 1-844-920-1460,” the spokesperson said.

Scott said she was further frustrated when Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg’s office released details Friday about how residents can participate in “town hall” discussions about selecting the new LMPD chief.

Those meetings are both to be held virtually, which Scott said presents a problem for many in west Louisville who do not have internet access.

The mayor’s office sent out a list of library branch locations where staff will help people log on or access the Zoom meetings as a group on a large screen. None of those locations are at libraries in the West End.

“It is unacceptable to sit back and keep seeing these press releases and flyers go out, leaving us out, leaving out the West End of Louisville, leaving out our participation, our voice,” she said.

“None of it makes sense to me, except that it's an intentional exclusion of our community.”

Kevin Trager, a spokesperson for Greenberg, told LPM News that city-hired consultants wanted to hold the meetings virtually to make it easier to access.

“We want people to be able to participate from home or from work or anywhere they are. I think more people will take advantage of this opportunity and log on because it's virtual, as opposed to if they had to go to a physical location,” he said.

Asked why a West End library hadn’t been selected as an official access point for those without internet, Trager said there’s nothing stopping people from going to their closest library on their own to participate.

“If people live near Shawnee Library, they have computers there….they can go to any of the libraries and reserve a computer during that time and participate in the town hall,” he said.

“Staff at each library have been advised to help any patron needing connectivity assistance,” Trager said in a follow-up email.

Meeting information

The new DOJ meeting in the West End is scheduled for:

Monday, May 15, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. 
Greater Friendship Baptist Church
2325 Osage Ave.

Additional DOJ meetings can be found here.

Information for virtual town halls for the LMPD police chief search is here.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at jclark@lpm.org.