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DOJ releases draft consent decree to Louisville officials, requests confidentiality

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg took questions from the media in Metro Hall. Behind him are two Assistant U.S. Attorney Generals and Interim Police Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel.
J. Tyler Franklin
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LPM
Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel, far right, and Mayor Craig Greenberg, center, addressing the media in December 2022.

Louisville officials got a first look Tuesday morning at the policing reforms the U.S. Department of Justice wants them to implement in the coming years.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg met with U.S. Department of Justice officials Tuesday, according to a statement from Greenberg’s office. Representatives from the Louisville Metro Police Department and Jefferson County Attorney's Office were also present at the meeting. According to the city, DOJ officials presented them with their first draft of a consent decree, which is a roadmap for policing reform. If the city signs off on the decree, their compliance will be overseen by a federal judge and an independent monitor.

A spokesperson from the Mayor’s Office said in a statement that the DOJ advised them not to share details of the draft consent decree with the public.

“The Mayor and LMPD Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel are committed to being transparent throughout this process and will keep Louisville informed as updates are available, and as permitted by the DOJ,” the statement read.

A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment on whether they are preventing Louisville from sharing the draft with the public.

City officials and lawyers with the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division are expected to negotiate a final decree over the coming months.

The proposed consent decree is the result of a nearly two year-long investigation of LMPD by the federal government, which was sparked by the killing of Breonna Taylor in 2020.

The DOJ released the results of its “pattern or practice” investigation last March, finding LMPD routinely violated the people’s civil rights, especially Black residents.

In a statement Tuesday, Greenberg said he views the consent decree negotiations and the policing reforms LMPD has already started implementing as “an urgent priority for Louisville.”

“These efforts are essential to make Louisville safer, stronger and healthier for all our people,” Greenberg said in a statement Tuesday. “The DOJ report was a painful picture of LMPD’s past, but it has pointed us in the right direction for our future as we make LMPD the most trained, trusted and transparent police department in America.”

LMPD has been working on a broad set of changes recommended in 2021 by the Chicago-based consulting firm Hillard Heintze, including an early warning detection system for problem officers and tracking demographic data on traffic stops.

The department listed 81% of the recommendations as “implemented” on its online dashboard Tuesday.

In her own statement, LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel said she is committed to working closely with Greenberg and the DOJ.

“As Chief, I have full faith in my fellow officers who bravely serve our city and I see their commitment to protecting our community and building and repairing trust with those we serve,” Gwinn-Villaroel said in the statement.

The final consent decree will be entered as a court order in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky. It will include mechanisms for community members to participate in implementing the reforms, according to the agreement in principle the two parties signed last year. The DOJ and city officials also agreed to consult officers and the police union in the process.

The agreement in principle does not prevent Louisville leaders from sharing details of the consent decree.

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