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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The man hired by the city of Louisville to investigate complaints against Metro Police has a complaint of his own.

He can’t get answers out of the police department.

Months of social unrest in Louisville and cries for accountability after the police killing of Breonna Taylor led to the creation of the Civilian Review and Accountability Board. Last year, the city’s first inspector general was hired.

“We get the complaint, then we assign it to an investigator, the investigator does the preliminary investigation, they bring it to me, we discuss it,” Inspector General Ed Harness said.

Once a month, the Civilian Board meets and Harness presents complaints that were submitted. The board has reviewed 16 since June, with at least four approved for a full investigation.

Once a full investigation has commenced, Harness said his team requests information from the Louisville Metro Police Department to help investigate the officer’s action during the incident in question. Harness said his team reviews information including all body cam video, police reports and statements from parties involved.

“It would be everything that’s necessary for us to reach a full and complete conclusion,” he said.

However, Harness said the following steps have included “speed bumps,” courtesy of the police department.

“We can’t do that and provide transparency if in fact we’re getting redacted documents, and we’re being hindered from getting complete access to the information,” he said.

In one investigation, involving potential bias in a domestic violence case, Harness said LMPD is withholding crucial details and a witness.

When WDRB News asked LMPD for response to Harness saying his office should have direct access to information, the police department sent the following statement:

“The FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division provides a range of tools and serves as the central repository for large amounts of information available to law enforcement agencies. CJIS is central to an agency’s efforts, whether running wanted checks on individuals for active warrants, criminal history checks for employment purposes, checking cars for being stolen etc. CJIS information is, by definition, available to qualified employees of a law enforcement agency and violation(s) of CJIS protocol by an individual can compromise the entire agency’s access. The information Mr. Harness is seeking qualifies as CJIS protected information and as such, LMPD has reached out to CJIS for written guidance of how best to navigate this terrain without compromising the agency’s standing with their organization.

Regarding the detective not appearing before him: the case in question stems from a 2018 incident in which the lead investigator was tragically killed shortly after beginning the investigation.  The case was then transferred to another detective for investigation and has since been reviewed by numerous detectives and supervisors.  This review includes a PSU investigation, which was completed in 2020, that uncovered no wrongdoing by any department members.  Upon the advice of counsel, the officer in question has declined to provide a statement to the OIG due to the circumstances of the case.”

In turn, Harness said he consulted with Kentucky State Police on a memorandum to find a solution.

“And I submitted that to Chief Shields a couple of months ago, expecting that it would be signed so we can move forward,” he said. “But the position of the department is that they still want to wait for the opinion of the FBI.”

Harness said some review documents are heavily redacted and, in a separate investigation, they’re still waiting on the full body cam footage from the shootout at Shawnee Park with Herbert Lee.

Some of these roadblocks were foreseen, but state lawmakers didn’t give the review board subpoena powers. Based on precedent, Harness said the Department of Justice just might at the end of its ongoing investigation into LMPD.

“And we will be granted essentially unfettered access to the information that we need to do our investigations,” Harness said.

Harness said he’s also working with Mayor Greg Fischer’s office on solutions to collecting information.

When WDRB News reached out to the mayor’s office, Communications Director Jessica Wethington replied:

“The goal of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to help strengthen the trust between our residents and our police officers, and move us a step further in achieving our goals of racial justice and equity. And while LMPD is working tirelessly on more than 150 reform efforts, there are some challenges we are committed to working through to make sure the OIG has access to all information LMPD can legally provide. The OIG has only been fully operational for a short time and the Mayor is taking all steps possible, including proposing possible amendments to the ordinance and recommending to the next mayor to continue pushing a legislative agenda for the board to have subpoena power, to ensure full transparency and cooperation.”

In his experience, Harness said the vast majority of officers are exonerated once video is released of an incident. He feels that transparency can start to rebuild trust between LMPD and the citizens it serves.

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