In the summer of 2020, America was rocked by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Louisville’s own Breonna Taylor. Social justice demonstrations not seen since the late 1960s took place in 2,000 American cities, including more than 100 consecutive nights in our city. It was a time of pain, reflection and determination to rebuild police-community trust.
Pending the findings of an investigation into DOJ standards and practice, we’d like to share our progress and the vital work to be done as we work to redefine public safety.
Public safety has always been Metro Government’s biggest responsibility. Every agency, not just the Louisville Metro Police Department, plays a role – and together, your city government, your police department and you, our residents, are making the progress we need.
More:Which officers are facing federal charges in the Breonna Taylor case: What you need to know
After Breonna Taylor’s death, for reasons of third-party neutrality, we turned the internal LMPD investigation over to the state attorney general and the FBI. To identify any areas for improvement at LMPD, we commissioned Hillard Heintze to conduct an independent review of our police practices.
The city quickly settled a civil lawsuit with Breonna’s family. For accountability, due process was our guide, which we know was frustrating for some because of the timing, but ultimately the process led to the firing of several officers as well as federal charges. We are grateful for the federal investigation into the Breonna Taylor case, as an unbiased review was essential to the integrity of the findings.
Mayor Louisville, Chief of LMPD:DOJ findings expected in ‘coming weeks’
In April 2021, when the Department of Justice announced its investigation into LMPD, we pledged full cooperation. But we did not wait for the Justice Department’s findings to proceed with our reforms.
We hired a reformed LMPD Chief in Erika Shields and have implemented many changes, from banning no-knock warrants to revising our search warrant policies. To date, 84% of Hillard Heintze’s reform recommendations are either complete or ongoing. Visit louisville-police.org, click on LMPD Transparency to study the details.
More:Ex-Louisville cop pleads guilty to lying about Breona Taylor search warrant
To create a model police force, we increased training, investment in technology and compensation. We created an LMPD Accountability and Improvement Office focused on reform, oversight and training.
Importantly, we have made unprecedented investments in the non-police areas of public safety. Our Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods received a big boost this past year in the form of federal US Rescue Plan dollars, allowing us to fully fund OSHN for the first time. This has fueled systemic outreach efforts, new programs for violence intervention and prevention, and diversion options for mental health support instead of law enforcement intervention.
We understand that trust and accountability for institutions such as law enforcement must be increased. To that end, we created a Citizens Review and Accountability Council and an Office of the Inspector General.
While we have much work ahead of us to realize our goal of becoming a model city for racial equity and justice, we have made significant progress while expanding our whole-of-government approach to public safety.
In the coming weeks, we expect the Department of Justice to release its letter of inquiry so that we can compare its findings to the work we have completed and begin working on open issues.
In the meantime, we invite you to join an online community discussion about our efforts on my Facebook page on Saturday, September 10, at 2 p.m. We will provide updates and answer your questions.
Thank you to the members of LMPD who step up every day with the goal of becoming the best police department in the country. The goal must always be to constitutionally police every corner of our city with a department supported by its most valuable asset – our residents.
We also thank the people who never stopped demanding justice for Breonna Taylor. They ensured that her name will live on as a symbol of the never-ending pursuit of justice and strong police-community relations.
Words will never lessen the loss of those who miss their loved ones so much. Our actions are steps towards honoring their lives.
We will continue to work in a community that is pro-police and pro-reform, where we will come together to create safe, thriving neighborhoods. There is a lot of work to be done. We are sure we will do it together.
Greg Fisher is the outgoing Mayor of Louisville and Erica Shields is the Chief of the Louisville Metro Police Department
This article originally appeared in the Louisville Courier Journal: How city is making progress on public safety redesign: Opinion