Public Safety Committee debates limits on LMPD use of force

Published: Sep. 30, 2020 at 11:38 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Metro Council’s Public Safety Committee debated whether to install new limits on police when it comes to using force Wednesday. For weeks, council members have been tweaking the ordinance.

The work on the ordinance isn’t over, though. Committee Chair Jessica Green cut a piece out and tabled it so that incoming Interim LMPD Chief Yvette Gentry gets to provide input as outgoing Interim Chief Robert Schroeder did.

The ordinance would put LMPD policy completely in line with the national “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, aimed at eliminating use of force practices like chokeholds and shooting at moving cars, requiring de-escalation, officer intervention, and documenting any time an officer draws a weapon.

Six of the eight are already part of LMPD’s policy, raising the question of why it needs to be written into law.

“I’m not sitting here saying there’s not some things in LMPD that need to be fixed because there are, but I don’t think policy is one of them and I don’t think making it very difficult to be nimble when situations change is the way to go,” Councilman Mark Fox said.

Fox, a former LMPD officer, argues that policy is ever-changing and should be left to the experts to create it.

“The original eight points are just common sense kind of things,” Green said. “I don’t think that anybody has much difficulty with coming to a conclusion about chokeholds.”

The main point that drew criticism was the ninth aspect, restricting the use of chemical agents like tear gas if an officer or civilian is in danger or in cases of arson, or rioting.

Councilman James Peden questioned what happens if technology changes.

“We are totally, one law at a time, eliminating any flexibility that the police department has to be able to adapt to be able to operate on a daily basis,” Peden said.

Councilman Brandon Coan, a co-sponsor, argues Schroeder already changed the tear gas policy requiring the chief to sign off on its use.

“During the civil unrest we’ve had last week, my recollection is, there was no use of chemical agents or tear gas,” Coan said. “I didn’t see any ad I think that is a direct result of some of the experience that we had earlier this summer and some of the pushback in the new policy from the chief.”

Green eventually ended up cutting the chemical agents section out of the ordinance in order to gain more widespread support from the committee.

The committee also tabled a resolution encouraging Metro Government to negotiate with the FOP to expand drug and alcohol testing for officers involved in critical incidents. The police union originally fought back when it was first introduced as an ordinance.

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