EXCLUSIVE: City suspends payments for Violence Interrupter contractor

City officials in charge of Violence Interrupters program testify to Metro Council

EDITOR’S NOTE: The video previously attached to this story incorrectly indicated Wednesday’s Metro Council hearing was scheduled because of WAVE 3 News reports on the interrupter program. In fact, the hearing was previously scheduled as part of the regular budget process.

UPDATE -- May 22, 6 p.m.

At a city budget hearing Wednesday evening, Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, the director of Louisville’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, was evasive when asked why LMPD wasn’t involved in the hiring or screening.

“My office conducted background checks," he said. "We send out background checks to the state and other agencies.”

After the meeting, WAVE 3 News caught up with a couple Metro Council members about the hearing.

Councilman Kevin Kramer questioned the relationship between the interrupters and officers.

“It’s entirely possible that the testimony that we got making it sound like there’s this communication is not happening," Kramer said. "And for what it’s worth, every bit of information that I got before I walked into that room is that the police had no idea who these folks were.”

Councilman Bill Hollander acknowledged there are some issues to work out, but said he believes in the program as a tool to help reduce crime.

“If there is something that is being done in a different city, in Brooklyn or in Baltimore or in other cities that are using the model that we’re not doing here that we should be doing, let’s start doing it," Hollander said. "And we made that point today to Rashaad, but I don’t think it’s something that we want to say, we’re not going to do it.”

ORIGINAL STORY -- May 22, 3:21 p.m.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After multiple investigations, WAVE 3 News has learned the city recently suspended payments to one of the organizations that hires and manages the Violence Interrupters.

A local non-profit group called No More Red Dots has been placed in a remediation process to work out the problems the city says it found.

No More Red Dots worked as a contractor for Louisville’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, or OSHN. It was responsible for hiring and managing the Violence Interrupters. Interrupters are people with criminal backgrounds who try to prevent violence.

The suspension of payments to No More Reds Dots’ interrupters comes while the city looks to make tens of millions of dollars in cuts due to a budget crisis. The city has been paying nearly $900,000 each year to No More Red Dots.

OSHN said No More Red Dots did not submit the required documentation required by the contract. In an email Tuesday, an OSHN spokesperson said “all payment is remitted to the vendor once financial and program reports are completed.” The group added that it is working with No More Red Dots to account for the missing documents and receipts.

OSHN would not say whether the suspension of payments also had to do with policies regarding background checks and drug testing for the interrupters.

According to the $892,000 contract between OSHN and No More Red Dots for the interrupters program, the organization must submit Monthly Program Activity Reports, which include copies of daily interrupter logs, number of mediations conducted and criminal background checks.

“All of the accusations or allegations were corrected,” said Dr. Eddie Woods, the Director of No More Red Dots. "The information was submitted months prior, and all of the financial and fiscal things were accounted for.

“They were trying to build a product from the ground up.”

Woods said No More Red Dots already had a program which the city was trying to fit into the interrupter model.

PREVIOUS STORIES

WAVE 3 News submitted multiple open records requests, including requests for copies of site assessments for No More Red Dots and the YMCA, the other vendor who also hires and manages interrupters. The site assessments provide a checklist similar to a report card for certain criteria.

WAVE 3 News also asked for other documentation and correspondence regarding the suspension of payments. Originally, the city’s office for Open Records told WAVE 3 News the documentation would be made available May 17. Upon further asking, the open records department stated OSHN had asked for an extension to provide the documents and that they would not be available until May 31.

The Interrupter program came under fire recently after a series of WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter stories, which broke the news of when one of the interrupters was arrested for allegedly choking, punching and raping a woman. The suspect, Dwight Taylor, had been released from prison just six months prior to his hiring by the YMCA. His criminal background included drug convictions and a guilty plea to a wanton endangerment felony charge and assault, after strangling another woman. OSHN fired Taylor immediately after the most recent arrest, and told WAVE 3 News it was working with the YMCA in regardto his hiring.

WAVE 3 News also has learned that the partnership between the University of Louisville Hospital and No More Red Dots ended just Monday.

UofL Hospital said it no longer needs any affiliations with outside parties for violence de-escalation, adding that it will continue to work with another non-profit organization called Pivot to Peace to curtail violence.

“UofL Hospital’s trauma community health workers, who joined the organization in November 2018, have a successful track record of relationship building and implementing violence de-escalation efforts for patients recovering from violent injuries and their families,” Interim Director of Communications, Jill Scoggins, said. “We continue to partner with the Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods in our effort.”

OSHN’s director, Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, was expected to testify during a city budget hearing Wednesday.

WAVE Observes Similar Program In Brooklyn

WAVE 3 News also traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., recently to observe how the Cure Violence Interrupter program works, and reported the differences between it and the program here in Louisville.

For example, the identities of the interrupters in Brooklyn are known by police and by the residents in the neighborhoods they serve. The manager of the program in Brooklyn said they have even attended NYPD roll calls before as a way to make their presence known and establish a relationship. LMPD officials said interrupters in Louisville do not have direct contact with the officers.

LMPD also confirmed it was not part of the interrupter hiring process, although law enforcement participation was required as part of the contracts with the vendors. A spokesperson for OSHN said LMPD did not participate because of a “scheduling conflict.”

WAVE 3 News also learned that for some time, Louisville was operating the program in-house without being a Cure Violence site. OSHN said the staff with No More Red Dots was trained in the Cure Violence model under a previous contract. Cure Violence officials said they had worked with Louisville in the past, but their involvement was limited.

OSHN said Cure Violence was brought to Louisville last week to asses No More Red Dots, and to train the Violence Interrupters hired by the YMCA under a new contract.

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