LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - At a time when violence and disease are combining for an unprecedented threat to the health and safety of Louisville neighborhoods, new leadership in a small city department is facing a very big job.
“Not only are we dealing with the pandemic, [but] we’re dealing with black on black killing and nationally we’re dealing with police officers killing African-Americans.,” Steven Kelsey, a minister and retired Louisville police officer, said. “I’m 55, a retired police officer. I still, when I’m driving my car, I have to think about my safety.”
On Tuesday, Kelsey was named the faith-based liaison for the city’s office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods. It is now his job to build a coalition of churches and community organizations to bring an end to ongoing deadly violence.
He said it is a challenge that starts with building trust between black communities and police.
“I’m afraid for my son every time he goes out the door,” Kelsey said. "Number one, I don’t know if he’s going to run into a police officer who had a bad day and… I don’t want my son to run into an African-American who is angry, unemployed, and sees my son driving his car and wants his car.
Criminal homicides in Louisville had claimed 113 lives this year as of noon Wednesday and left more than 400 wounded, according to Game Changers Executive Director Christopher 2x.
The anti-violence activist said change needs to originate in homes and neighborhoods.
“If there’s not an internal will to change the situation around, it’s going to be a long term, drawn-out situation that unfortunately a lot of lives are still going to be lost,” 2x said.
The latest spike in homicides comes as the economic downturn also puts city resources under pressure.
“We hear about crime, we want to fund police. More police, more police, more police,” Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds said. “What we do not do is spend any time or effort on the root causes of crime.”
Kelsey described the challenge ahead with a sense of urgency.
“I should not be dealing with the same thing that my mother had to deal with, my father had to deal with,” Kelsey said. “If we don’t get it right now, my grandchildren are going to be fighting the same battles that we’ve been dealing with.”