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Louisville inspector general ‘hopeful’ misconduct investigations can move forward by end of the month

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

Following a meeting with police officials and union leaders Wednesday, the head of Louisville’s police oversight office says officer misconduct investigations will resume soon.

So far, the board has completed just one investigation. It involved a complaint from a woman who was tackled after leaving a traffic stop and suffered a medical emergency as a result. The board found the officer violated policies around use of force and de-escalation, although LMPD had already cleared him of any wrongdoing.

The development comes after the River City Fraternal Order of Police, the local police union, filed a grievance with the chief, bringing investigations to a halt. The union argued officers were being asked to sit for investigative interviews before being given enough detail about the misconduct allegations people had filed against.

Inspector General Ed Harness oversees independent investigations of complaints for Louisville’s Civilian Review and Accountability Board. Harness told LPM News Thursday that his office and the union had reached “some understanding” that will allow compelled officer interviews and misconduct investigations to move forward.

“It could happen again,” Harness said. “It’s all going to be very fact and case specific, but we all agree that we want to work collaboratively to move [the cases] forward. So, I think we will have good enough communication to not have this issue in the future.”

Harness said the grievance filed by the union involved four of the nearly 20 investigations his office is currently conducting. He did not provide a copy of the grievance or details about the investigations that had come to a standstill.

River City FOP President Ryan Nichols did not respond to requests for comment.

The Office of Inspector General investigates civilian complaints against police officers. Up to this point, only the complaints about police behavior were attached to notices provided to officers ahead of an interview. But both Harness and the police union agree that those complaints are sometimes convoluted or lack basic facts about alleged misconduct.

The police union argued the notices did not have specificity required by Kentucky’s police officer bill of rights, which requires investigators to “fully inform the police officer of the nature and circumstances of the alleged violation in order that he may be able to properly defend himself.”

Harness said his office will now provide an “information memorandum” alongside the complaint, which he described as “an encapsulation of the event.” It will include details such as who was involved and when and where the incident took place.

“It’s unfair to expect that a civilian can articulate circumstances and allegations, so in some cases we will have to interpret them for the officer before they come in,” he said.

Asked about the agreement during a news conference Thursday, Mayor Craig Greenberg said he hadn’t been briefed yet on the outcome of Wednesday’s meeting, but that he expects investigations to resume.

“Our administration has been very clear that LMPD is and will cooperate,” he said. “We assigned a memorandum of understanding that was unable to get done prior to me taking office, and I think it’s very important that [the civilian review board’s] work continue.”

Angela Ingram, a spokesperson for LMPD, said in a written statement that the department will remain in communication with Office of Inspector General.

“As we have previously stated, the police department has a vested interest in cooperating with the OIG for the betterment not only of the police department, but for the community as a whole,” Ingram said.

Louisville’s Civilian Review and Accountability Board and the Office of Inspector General were created by Metro Council in 2020 in the wake of racial justice protests and scrutiny of policing in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death during a police raid. Harness, who previously headed the police oversight agency in Albuquerque, N.M.,was hired by the city last October to begin independent investigations.

This recent impasse with the police union is the second time investigations by the Office of Inspector General have come to a halt.

Last year, Harness accused LMPD of withholding critical information from investigators, such as police reports and body camera footage. He told reporters at the time that LMPD was “an organization that's acting like they have something to hide.”

Harness and Louisville Metro Police Department leaders announced in March that they had reached an agreement for sharing information and compelling officers to participate in the investigations.

During the interview Thursday, Harness said he doesn’t believe LMPD or the union are deliberately attempting to hinder civilian oversight and accountability.

“We’re all in a learning process here because this is all brand new,” he said. “Everybody is advocating for their role in this process and everytime we go through these exercises we come out better on the other end.”

Harness said he expects to present at least two completed investigations to members of the Civilian Review and Accountability Board at their next meeting on July 26.

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

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