'No Snitch' philosophy deeper than fear of retribution

Updated: May. 31, 2017 at 7:36 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE 3) – Louisville Metro Police continue to ask for witnesses in several unsolved murders.

"The no-snitch policy is killing us all literally and figuratively," said LMPD Homicide Lt. Emily McKinley addressing the recent shooting at the Big Four Bridge.

"I'm pleading with you. If you were there, if you know who you are," said LMPD Detective Stephen Snider addressing the murder of 7-year-old Dequante Hobbs Jr.

While the plea is straightforward, the possibility of becoming a witness and testifying in court could be what's driving witnesses away from stepping up with information.

"A lot of it is a fear factor, and how do you alleviate fear you protect them, and how do you protect them?" said Criminal Defense Attorney Leland Hulbert. "With money and resources. We don't have that."

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Hulbert said there is a lack of incentive to step forward with information because witnesses don't get a promise of protection or compensated for missing work for court time or travel expenses.

"We pay them nothing, we don't have the resources to protect them. We basically say come at your own risk or you're going to get in trouble," Hulbert said. I've had cases that I prosecuted that were fairly high profile and gang related and we couldn't offer protection. We couldn't put them up in a hotel in Indiana."

Community leader and UrbanMaxx CEO Brad Harrison said witnesses in the community won't step forward with information because of a lack of trust in police.

"This is deeper than just criminality," Harrison said, "There are average citizens that don't want to cooperate with the police because there is a bad relationship between police departments, really across America and the black community."

Harrison said there's also concern over witness protection, his mom testified in a robbery case and wasn't offered protection when the criminals were released from their sentence, back into the community.

"Once the case is over with these people are set free to go back in the community and can deal the associates friends or family and people they have testified against. So without police protection and without compensation, people don't want to get involved," Harrison explained.

>> VIDEO: Watch Kasey Cunningham's report

To get witnesses to come forward, Harrison said changes must start with relationships between community members and police officers.

"Right now, trust does not exist," Harrison said.

"Until you find some incentive or protection for witnesses, nothing is going to change," said Hulbert.

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