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Proposed funding would improve system for complaints about Louisville police

 Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville Public Media
Louisville's police oversight agency currently uses a simple web form to collect complaints.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg’s proposed budget for next year includes $24,000 to help improve the city’s system for receiving civilian complaints against police officers.

Louisville’s Inspector General says the proposed budget for fiscal year 2025 would allow the office to upgrade its intake portal for police misconduct complaints.

Currently, anyone wanting to report misconduct to the IG and the Civilian Review and Accountability Board can fill out an online form. But the form system the agency uses is better suited to creating a survey or collecting RSVPs than for independent police oversight.

Inspector General Ed Harness said the current system flags submissions with offensive language or descriptions of violence to protect the recipient against harassment. That means legitimate complaints about officers’ words or actions can be filtered out before reaching an investigator.

Harness said that’s exactly what happened when the family of Omari Cryer requested an investigation. Cryer, 25, was shot and killed by U.S. Marshals on May 20, 2022 while they were attempting to serve an arrest warrant.

“The family had filed a complaint with us and we just didn’t see and we didn’t know what was going on,” Harness said. “We had a couple of meetings with IT and found the complaint had been firewalled.”

The IG’s Office has since developed a workaround, but it’s labor-intensive. Harness said someone from the office has to manually check for flagged or filtered misconduct complaints daily.

“The adoption of this new forward-looking platform will hopefully get rid of that problem,” Harness said.

The IG’s Office has received 106 complaints since the agency began operating in June 2022, he said. Of those, nearly two-thirds came in via the online form.

Independent investigations into police misconduct are a key responsibility of the IG’s Office. Its staff also performs third-party reviews of all incidents when an officer shoots someone. The investigators present their findings to the Civilian Review and Accountability Board, which makes discipline recommendations directly to the chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department.

The IG’s Office has so far completed ten investigations.

In Mayor Craig Greenberg’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2025, which starts July 1, the IG’s Office would receive $24,000 to build out a new online portal for receiving misconduct complaints. It would use the same system as LMPD.

Metro Council members will vote on the final budget next month.

Greenberg’s spokesperson, Kevin Trager, said in a statement Monday that the administration is committed to working with the IG to streamline its investigative process.

“We are hopeful this new online tool will encourage community members to come forward, report misconduct, and ultimately help build trust between the public, Metro Government, and LMPD,” Trager said.

City leaders are currently negotiating a consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice following its scathing investigation into unconstitutional and discriminatory policing practices by LMPD. The consent decree will act as a roadmap for reform, overseen by an independent monitor and a federal judge.

Trager said improving the IG’s misconduct complaint system is an example of the administration being proactive about transparency and accountability reforms while negotiations continue.

The funding for the new intake system was the only major budget request from the IG and Civilian Review and Accountability Board this year.

Harness said he’d like to have a conversation with the Greenberg administration and Metro Council in future budget years about how his office is funded. He said he’d like to see the IG’s Office funded as a percentage of LMPD’s budget, rather than its own line item.

“For instance, if there was a huge turnover and the mayor and Metro Council became anti-oversight, if we were a line-item, positions could be cut, our funding could be greatly slashed,” he said. “But if it’s written into ordinance that we’re a percentage of LMPD’s budget, then we’re not subject to political favor and we’re above the fray.”

While he hasn’t had that conversation with city leaders yet, Harness said it’s something he has proposed to the DOJ.

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

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