LMPD Review: Community mistrust, low officer morale among key findings

Months-long audit reveals Black residents more likely to be arrested, but not more likely to be injured by an officer
Published: Jan. 29, 2021 at 12:40 AM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A demonstrative Mayor Greg Fischer on Thursday introduced the results of an exhaustive, independent audit of the Louisville Metro Police Department.

Chicago-based risk management company Hillard Heintze focused its review largely on LMPD’s procedures surrounding traffic stops, use of force and the execution of search warrants, issues that came under the microscope during a tumultuous 2020 across the city.

Fischer said that while the review “exposed gaps,” it also found the department is “in line with national best practices in many areas.”

The city announced the need for a review June 2, a day after longtime LMPD Chief Steve Conrad was fired immediately following the law-enforcement shooting death of local restaurant owner David McAtee. Just days earlier, Louisville’s city streets were packed with protesters as lurid details about the LMPD shooting death of Breonna Taylor began to surface. Hillard Heintze was selected a month later to perform the audit.

Following Fischer’s introductory remarks, Public Safety Chief Amy Hess spoke about the specific asks the city had made of those performing the review. She revealed “there are 102 recommendations in this 155-page report.”

Before Fischer turned the meeting over to Hess, he listed several changes the department instituted last year following the aforementioned shootings, including Breonna’s Law, the introduction of a civilian review board and the hiring of a new police chief, among others.

Hillard Heintze spokesman Rob Davis was first to share specifics of the report. The two most prominent issues his team found, he said, were community trust and department morale. Davis shared one note that may have surprised some in Louisville -- that while Black residents are more likely to be arrested in Louisville, they are no more likely to be injured during an interaction with an LMPD officer. He also revealed an alarming reality about rank-and-file LMPD officers.

“Seventy-five percent would leave for another department” if they could, Davis said.

LMPD Chief Erika Shields said Thursday she is aware of the morale issue within the department.

“That’s incumbent upon me to address, and the first thing I’m going to do, and I’ve been working on diligently, still have a lot to do, is to meet as many of the officers as possible. And reassure them that they are valued,” Shields said.

A third issue in the department was communication.

“LMPD leadership needs to improve its communications up and down the chain of command,” Davis said.

Race was a key issue in the report, not just regarding the policing of Black communities, but in the hiring of Black command staff. Davis said the audit revealed that only 6 percent of the department’s sergeants and 10 percent of its lieutenants are Black.

“The department truly needs to diversity itself,” he said.

Davis added that like many departments around the country, LMPD is struggling in the areas of recruiting and retention. He then shared some positive notes from the report.

“We found ... between 2018 and 2020, LMPD experienced a 28-percent reduction in use of force,” Davis said, adding that there was also a 28-percent reduction in injuries to citizens during interactions with officers, and a 36-percent reduction in injuries to officers during those interactions.

Shields said she had questions prior to taking the job in Louisville and many of those were answered in this report.

“This report is the road map for us to move our department forward,” Shields said. “There’s no sense trying to sugar coat or gloss over anything. The report spells it out in black and white: we need to improve and we have a lot of work ahead of us.”

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Posted by WAVE 3 News on Thursday, January 28, 2021
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