Public Safety Committee passes two police reform resolutions

The resolutions focus on drug and alcohol testing for officers and providing more transparency between police departments and the public.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Two resolutions aimed at police reform in Louisville are headed to the full Metro Council after they passed the Public Safety Committee Wednesday night.

The first proposed resolution urges the city of Louisville and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) to require drug and alcohol testing after an officer is involved in a critical incident like a shooting.

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton-Smith (District 4), a co-sponsor of the resolution, said through her research into the requirements established by the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD), she realized the omission of a required alcohol test after a critical incident was not intentional.

“It’s just something that had never really been worked on and thought through,” she said during Wednesday’s meeting.

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Sexton-Smith said her first priority with the resolution was for the safety of police officers. The required testing would either clear the officers if they did not have any substances in their system or identify opportunities to help officers who may be struggling.

“We ought to do whatever we can to help identify the challenge and then help them seek the help that they need,” she said.

She said the resolution also takes public safety into consideration and “just makes good sense.”

The resolution passed the Public Safety Committee unanimously.

The second resolution, co-sponsored by Councilman Markus Winkler (District 17), includes three requests for state lawmakers: 

  • Allow subpoena power for the newly-created Office of the Inspector General
  • Amend the Kentucky Open Records Act to require departments to release body camera footage, 911 calls and other communications after critical incidents
  • Change laws to allow city officials to make public comments about incidents before investigations are complete

Winkler said that while passing police reforms on a local level was a good start, they needed updated legislation before real change could happen.

“At the end of the day, the vast majority of the enabling legislation is governed out of Frankfort,” Winkler said.

Earlier Wednesday, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer signed an ordinance establishing the Civilian Review and Accountability Board and Office of the Inspector General to oversee LMPD. While the text of that ordinance allows for subpoena power, Winkler said legislation in Frankfort would be required to enable it.

Councilwoman Marilyn Parker (District 18) said she did not believe subpoena power should be given to an unelected board and would not be supporting the resolution for that reason.

“That is an awful lot of power of an unelected board,” she said.

Metro Council President David James (District 6) argued that other unelected groups, like the Ethics Commission, have subpoena power and do a “pretty good job.”

Winkler said the other two parts of the resolution were focused on transparency with the public, particularly the third portion.

When officials are unable to provide public comment on a pending investigation, Winkler said the public “writes their own narrative.” He said the public assumes that officials are covering up the truth when they are just restricted due to state law.

He said he did not want the resolution to encourage anyone to pass judgement but did want officials to have the ability to comment on an ongoing investigation if they wanted to.

Councilwoman Sexton-Smith, President James, Councilwoman Jessica Green (District 1), Councilwoman Paula McCraney (District 7) all signed on as co-sponsors of the resolution.

President James said the resolution is an important step toward building trust between police departments and the communities they serve.

The resolution passed the Public Safety Committee with one opposing vote from Councilwoman Parker.

The resolutions will move onto the full Metro Council for the next vote. The full Public Safety Committee meeting can be viewed on the Louisville Metro Council Facebook page.

The resolutions can be read in full on the Louisville Metro Council website.

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