LMPD chief explains miscommunication behind homeless encampment’s removal

LMPD chief explains miscommunication behind homeless encampment’s removal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - On one of the coldest days of the year, a mix up led to people’s belongings being tossed and thrown away from a homeless encampment on Hancock Street on Feb. 19.

LMPD Chief Erika Shields spoke to the Louisville Metro Government Oversight and Audit Committee about the sequence of events leading up to the incident.

”We’re all aware why we’re here,” Committee Chairman Brent Ackerson (D-26) said. “We’re upset about what took place with the homeless camp removed. We’re upset with the lack of notice of people’s removal.”

The committee had a long discussion over who is to blame and how to keep situation like this from happening from happening again. Chief Shields then explained where her officers went wrong.

”At the time of the actual cleaning, the one officer who had been in the loop of it all had to leave for an emergency call,” Shields explained. “It was verbally communicated to another officer. The officer took it to mean a ‘clear’ as opposed to a ‘clean.’”

The chief continued explaining how the directive became, “clear the site” instead of “clean it,” as originally planned. She addressed the miscommunication, apologized on behalf of the police department and suggested further alignment within the department and policy regarding homelessness ordinances.

Shields also requested policies be “clear and straightforward.”

However, the verbal mix up identified the issue at hand. During the committee’s discussion, it was revealed documentation was never produced that allows a display of a 21-day notice at the encampment site, nor were outreach programs notified. A Louisville Metro ordinance regarding the clearing of homeless encampments demands a 21-day notification and visible signage to be posted on public property. Before the 21-day notice, outreach and coalition programs are advised of the notification to allow for three days of work to house the displaced.

Donny Greene, the co-founder of Feed Louisville, told WAVE3 News he went to the site and helped the displaced when he caught wind of the situation back in February.

”What we did was temporary,“ he said. “It was harm reduction at best. People need permanent housing. Not shelters — homes.”

Here’s how the ordinance breaks down: according to the Louisville Metro Community Resilience and Community Support director, when a complaint is reported to 311, within 48 hours the department will convene with LMPD community outreach officers, Metro Public Works, and the Department of Codes and Regulation.

During the committee meeting, council members, along with department directors, talked about the policy process. Some council members claimed the incumbent process lacks efficiency and lends to cracks in the system.

Some committee members suggested a change to the homelessness ordinance, asking all government entities, upon skilled assessments, to report to a sole spokesperson who sends the directives to the top.

For people like Greene, he said he wants more people, including members of Metro Council, to evaluate their process of helping the seemingly growing homeless population in Louisville.

”Anything I can do on the street, until we can get off the street, I will work to do,” Greene said.

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