LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Police reform has become a hot topic in many cities across the country, including Louisville.
At the center of the local conversation are the officers themselves. Lt. Richard Pearson spent 22 years as an officer, including some time under Mayor Greg Fischer’s leadership.
“Most people use police as a one-stop shop,” Pearson said, adding that reform takes work from the community, not just the police department. He said officers can’t switch their roles or emotions going from a murder to a robbery and then to a noise complaint in a single day.
”If a police officer doesn’t need to be involved, they shouldn’t be involved,” Pearson said. “That takes stress off them and their workload, and it also takes stress off the public. When an officer arrives on scene it adds a certain element of stress.”
Pearson said removing officers from non-violent situations involving the mentally ill or homeless, when a community organization could instead step in, would help a short-staffed department. He said it could also give it time to focus on serious cases. Metro Councilwoman Paula McCraney said that plan is in the works.
”What that does is pair up a professional in the social services field with a policeman, so that those calls are answered by someone who is better trained in mental illnesses cases, drug abuse cases or domestic violence cases,” she said.
McCraney said the Metro Council approved $1.2 million for exploration and implementation in co-responder approaches. The co-responder approach places behavioral health specialists with police to offer case management connections to treatment, housing and services.
McCraney said $1.6 million in federal funds were redirected to recruitment efforts and training in use of force, de-escalation, implicit bias and other scenarios.
Julie Hartman recently moved to Louisville from Pennsylvania, and said that where she grew up, the officers who patrolled her neighborhood also lived there.
”I don’t know how it worked or why it changed,” she said.
McCraney said it would be a great idea to have those who serve you living right next to you.
Pearson said as a former officer he has an idea or two of his own for reform.
“The most beneficial idea I can come up with right now is to remove Greg Fischer,” Pearson said. “He is the solo, most problematic issue, going on right now. He is the biggest threat to public safety because of the decisions he’s making.”
For community reform, Pearson said he wants the community to stop painting with broad strokes by lumping all officers by the actions of a few.
McCreany said change takes time, but Louisvillians can expect to see some movement once a new chief is appointed to replace Steve Conrad, who was fired last month. Rob Schroeder has been serving as interim chief since.