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Community groups want say in consent decree talks, council resolution could help

A group of people standing at a lectern
Divya Karthikeyan
Council Member Shameka Parrish-Wright spoke alongside community members in City Hall.

As Louisville negotiates a consent decree with the Department of Justice, community members want a voice in the process. One Metro Council member wants to support them with a resolution.

Community members and groups came together to observe the fourth anniversary of Breonna Taylor’s killing by Louisville police at a press conference Wednesday.

They launched The People’s Consent Decree, a coalition of activists and groups calling for wider public input in crafting police reforms that could be agreed to as part of a consent decree between Louisville Metro and the Department of Justice.

Metro Council Member Shameka Parrish-Wright, a District 3 Democrat, said she’d introduce a resolution reflecting those community members’ demands for police reforms “in the next month or two.”

“We need something that comes from the city that acknowledges the long history of harms and the ability to work together with the community to make those changes,” she said.

Last year, the DOJ released a damning investigation into the Louisville Metro Police Department in the aftermath of Taylor’s death. It detailed multiple instances of police misconduct and failure to discipline officers and discriminating against Black people, among other problems. The department found LMPD has a pattern or practice of conduct in violation of the U.S. Constitution and federal law.

The coalition wants a “public acknowledgement of toxic culture within the existing department.” They want community members to be part of every step in crafting the consent decree and clear timelines for the process. That would include community listening sessions with the DOJ and Louisville Metro present. “We can make it clear that we refuse and we reject Mayor [Craig] Greenberg keeping secret the consent decree from us,” said Attica Scott, a former state representative and director of Special projects at the Forward Justice Action Network.

The mayor’s office received a draft of the consent decree last month, and said the DOJ advised the administration to keep it confidential.

The coalition also wants the city not to allocate additional money to LMPD to address issues raised in the consent decree. Instead, it wants Louisville to invest in housing, transportation and other needs..

As part of a $1.1 billion spending plan for the current fiscal year, Metro Council approved $220 million for LMPD.

The group’s other demands include:

Amber Duke, the ACLU of Kentucky’s executive director, also spoke at the press conference.

“Part of how we move forward and move toward healing is the hope that our police department would acknowledge, accept, apologize, and whatever is in that decree, to move forward and embrace that and not get caught in the details and try to negotiate their way out of reform,” she said.

In a statement, LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel said she recognized and acknowledged the impact of Taylor’s death on Louisville.

“LMPD is committed to being a better department for all citizens of Louisville and we will continue our reform efforts,” she said.

Parrish-Wright said she is working on drafting the resolution to include the group’s demands, and make them palatable. “We're planting seeds for policy change over time, and we might be planting seeds that we might not enjoy the shade from for years. But this gives us a springboard that we've never had,” she said.

Bianca Austin, Taylor’s aunt, reflected on the loss of her niece.

“We ain’t never going to see that child again. It hurts. Just think how her mom feels, how she feels today. But this is uplifting, this is going to keep us going. And remember, justice for Breonna Taylor is a movement,” she said.

Divya is LPM's Race & Equity Reporter. Email Divya at dkarthikeyan@lpm.org.