Ordinance limiting LMPD use of force policies passed by Metro Council

Updated: Oct. 22, 2020 at 11:52 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After weeks of debate and a vote of disapproval from the Louisville Metro Council Public Safety Committee, the Metro Council ordinance limiting the use of force within the Louisville Metro Police Department passed with a 15-10 vote.

The policy has to legally be in line with the national “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, adding limits on shooting at or from moving cars and documenting when police officers draw their weapons. Six of the eight requirements were already part of LMPD policy.

Co-sponsors Councilman Brandon Coan and Councilwoman Jessica Green describe the law as broad guardrails that leave the specifics up to the chief. It was also made clear by Interim Chief Yvette Gentry previously and council members Thursday that no one was against the policies currently in place.

“But this type of legislating, unchecked, could have significant downstream consequences,” Councilman Anthony Piagentini said.

“I can’t imagine you would need to change a policy that says we use a continuum force or that someone has a duty to de-escalate a situation,” co-sponsor Brandon Coan stated.

Green pointed out they already have backed up policies with law, like in the budget and minority contracting.

“We did it because we wanted to say that our values system values each of these policies enough that we want it codified into law,” Green said.

Those opposed, like a former officer, Councilman Mark Fox, argue policy needs to be flexible and left up to experts.

“Codified police policy injects time into those critical processes where often you don’t have it, and allowing professionals and individuals that are subject matter experts to develop the policies, removes them from politics and individual interests,” Fox said.

Some members felt wanted to wait until the state legislature passes new reforms and after a top to bottom review of LMPD is finished to see if there are any gaps to fill.

“We have 130 plus homicides and I’m afraid we are losing focus,” Piagentini said.

Piagentini argued there are reforms happening under Gentry right now and there are other issues to be addressed. However, many others said building back trust and a partnership between police and their community is what is needed to start working on those issues.

“My vote is for the future so that I don’t have to worry about the next chief that may not be a Yvette Gentry,” Councilwoman Paula McCraney said.

The ordinance passed 15-10. All seven Republicans were joined by three Democrats in voting no.

LMPD chief Yvette Gentry issued the following statement about the ordinance Friday afternoon:

"Resolving conflicts while using the least amount of force is the cornerstone of our progression of force model. Last night, Metro Council passed an ordinance obligating the Chief of LMPD, present and future, to include several elements in the policies and procedures regulating the conduct of department members. These elements are centered around department members' use of force and are intended to improve community interactions with police. I’m happy to report, almost all these elements already appear in our standard operating procedures. Any not already appearing, will be added as required in the ordinance.

While there is a lot of activity around evaluation and recommendation into changes in LMPD policy,  I want the public to understand, and I hope the council will develop some appreciation for, the importance of direct supervision and practices. LMPD has always been ahead of the curve on progressive policy. There have been occasions when things have gone wrong. Part of this is the human element, the inherit danger of policing and the way leadership responds to policy violations. The original version of the ordinance we received from council had recommendations that could potentially have increased or authorized an increase in the use of deadly force. I want to ensure we never undervalue the importance of seeking input from subject matter experts, who include law enforcement professionals with experience in the practical application of policies. At one point there was a version that prohibited chest compressions, which are a huge part of our lifesaving CPR efforts.

I will admit, assuming complete responsibility for our actions, while policies are being dictated by other people, is of grave concern to me. I still believe the council and I have the same goals in mind despite our differences in determining how we get there.

I will continue to focus on making sure we respond appropriately to the needs of our community in the safest, most inclusive way possible."

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