LMPD told to temporarily stop enforcing street racing ordinance

LMPD told to temporarily stop enforcing street racing ordinance
Published: Mar. 21, 2023 at 11:42 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police Department teamed up with the city after months of complaints from residents asking for a stop to the dangerous recklessness of street racing.

Three weeks ago, the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office told LMPD to hit the brakes on one of its newest and most effective tools.

Metro government’s crusade against street racing started last summer when people shut down the Watterson.

That incident led Metro council to pass an ordinance that gave LMPD some teeth to fight against racers. WAVE News received a memo from LMPD’s deputy police chief telling officers to not enforce those ordinances.

Shortly after the Watterson incident, LMPD released a PSA about cracking down on street racing.

“LMPD will have additional patrols on our roadways using marked and unmarked traffic enforcement vehicles, in addition to helicopters both night and day targeting aggressive and reckless driving,” the PSA said.

Metro council then passed an ordinance combating racing and reckless driving.

The ordinance gave LMPD some tools to fight back.

“It gives LMPD the ability to go and seize that vehicle and to impound it,” former Metro Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong said in October. “Because we know LMPD lacks the ability and rightly so to engage in pursuing that vehicle because it often creates unsafe situations.”

On top of getting their car impounded, people could get fined thousands of dollars. The ordinance went into effect in November.

Since then, there’s been a few notable incidents, such as when cars shut down intersections and blocked two ambulances last month. And then on Sunday night when a 16-year-old was injured while cars were doing donuts in Cox Park.

Last week, WAVE received a memo from March 2. The memo had LMPD Deputy Chief Paul Humphrey telling officers to not enforce the ordinance.

The memo says:

“On 3/2/23, General Memorandum #23-004 was issued relating to the new Vehicle Speed Contests and Reckless Driving Exhibitions ordinances, covered in LMCO 71.20 - 71.25. Additional work needs to be done regarding the processes involved with these ordinances. Until that work is completed, LMPD has been advised by the [Jefferson County Attorney’s Office] Civil Division to cease enforcing these ordinances.

You are directed to NOT enforce these ordinances until otherwise notified.

This order does not preclude you from still enforcing state law violations.

Paul L. Humphrey

Deputy Chief of Police.”

The memo comes nearly six months after it was passed.

A statement from LMPD last week confirmed this, saying:

“At the advice of the County Attorney’s office, we issued a temporary halt to enforcing the new ordinance. LMPD will still aggressively cite drivers that commit criminal offenses i.e. reckless driving, wanton endangerment. Any questions about the ordinance should be directed to the county attorney.”

But why was enforcement stopped?

WAVE asked the Attorney’s Office, and they said they couldn’t talk about advice they give a client, and referred us to the Mayor’s Office.

Deputy Mayor David James said in a statement:

“LMPD was awaiting clarification on the racing ordinance from the County Attorney but is now vigorously enforcing the law to ensure Louisville’s streets are safe and unwelcoming to street racers.”

After WAVE received the statement from James, he was asked again why enforcement was halted in the first place, but haven’t heard back yet.

Sources told WAVE that the county attorney’s office is working to get the language in the ordinance corrected.