LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The former Louisville Metro Police officer who was charged federally in connection to the death of west Louisville restaurant owner David “YaYa” McAtee may not serve prison time.A government sentencing memorandum was filed in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, arguing Katie Crews should serve a probation sentence for her role in McAtee’s death.Crews plead guilty in Oct. to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. As part of the guilty plea, Crews agreed not to pursue another law enforcement job.In June 2020, Crews and other officers were given orders to disperse crowds gathering near McAtee’s restaurant during the summer protests following Breonna Taylor’s death. > >FULL COVERAGE: The Breonna Taylor CaseThe former officer told investigators she had fired pepper balls at McAtee’s niece, Machelle McAtee, after she refused to get back in the restaurant during the mayor’s enacted curfew.David McAtee pulled Machelle out of a doorway after the pepper balls were fired, and documents state he opened the door and fired several shots with a gun.Crews, another LMPD officer and two National Guard soldiers returned fire, with one of the National Guard soldier’s bullets striking and killing McAtee.The FBI case began as Crews was cleared of all state charges, with Commonwealth Attorney Tom Wine saying Crews acted appropriately in returning fire.Prosecutors argued that while Crews’ use of force was excessive, her actions were done with a “legitimate law enforcement purpose” to clear the area and enforce the curfew.Documents state Crews first shouted verbal arguments, then fired pepper balls at the ground before eventually firing at McAtee’s niece after Crews’ orders were not followed.Prosecutors said they did not identify any use of excessive force by Crews prior to the incident, stating the former officer had no criminal history.Due to the listed reasons, prosecutors recommended sentence of probation with 100 hours of community service as sufficient punishment.Crews is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 30.Copyright 2023 WAVE. All rights reserved.
POLICE. THE NUMBER IS 574. LMPD. ALSO NEW TONIGHT AT SIX, A FORMER LOUISVILLE POLICE OFFICER MAY NOT SERVE ANY TIME IN PRISON FOR HER ROLE IN A DEADLY SHOOTING DURING THE PROTESTS OVER THE KILLING OF BREONNA TAYLOR IN MAY OF 2020. LMPD AND THE NATIONAL GUARD WERE BREAKING UP A GROUP VIOLATING A CITYWIDE CURFEW AT 26 OF BROADWAY. KATY CREWS SHOT PEPPER BALLS THAT HIT THE NIECE OF DAVID MCATEE, WHO PULLED OUT A GUN AND OPENED FIRE FROM HIS RESTAURANT. MCATEE WAS KILLED BY A NATIONAL GUARD SOLDIER WHO RETURNED FIRE CREWS PLEADED GUILTY TO DEPRIVATION OF CIVIL RIGHTS UNDER THE COLOR OF LAW, WHICH IS A MISDEMEANOR FOR A NEWLY FILED DOCUMENTS. PROSECUTORS HAVE REQUESTED ONE YEAR PROBATION AND COMMUNITY
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A former Louisville Metro Police officer who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor deprivation of civil rights under the color of law for her actions the night David McAtee was killed in 2020 should be sentenced to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service, prosecutors say.In October, Crews admitted she used "unreasonable force" by shooting pepper balls at McAtee's niece, Machelle McAtee, on June 1, 2020, striking her once in the shoulder, as the woman was standing on private property and not a threat to officers.While attorneys for McAtee’s family say Crews initiated the sequence of events leading to David McAtee’s death, federal prosecutors asked for a sentence of no incarceration, arguing, in part, Crews was fairly new on the force and “clearly could not have foreseen the tragic outcome of her actions in this case.”And while a pepper ball gun is considered a dangerous weapon under sentencing guidelines, prosecutors wrote that many officers perceive them as “minimal force” and similar to paintball guns.“In using a weapon that most LMPD officers equate with a 'paintball gun,' Defendant Crews likely did not foresee the likelihood of injury," prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney's office wrote in a sentencing recommendation on Wednesday.Under terms of the plea agreement reached in October, Crews could be placed on probation with the stipulation that she not seek a job in law enforcement again. Crews was initially charged with a felony and was facing up to 10 years in prison. Prosecutors agreed to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor carrying a maximum of one year behind bars.The sentencing memorandum lays out the reasoning behind why prosecutors agreed to the plea deal. U.S. District Court Judge Benjamin Beaton will ultimately decide whether to accept the plea deal and recommended punishment at the sentencing scheduled for Jan. 30.If Judge Beaton decides the plea agreement is too lenient, it would be withdrawn and both sides would resume negotiations. If Beaton accepts the plea, Crews will still be able to vote and own a firearm.In the sentencing memorandum, prosecutors made the case that Crews should avoid any incarceration, noting she has no prior criminal history, accepted responsibility for her actions, had only been with the department two years and had never previously used a pepper ball gun in the field, according to the filing.“Her decision to deploy a pepperball directly at (Machelle McAtee) was a quick decision that did not involve planning or deliberation,” prosecutors wrote. “While a pepperball gun is a dangerous weapon under the guidelines, many LMPD officers perceive it as minimal force.”Crews was also likely acting on high emotions from previous days of city-wide protests revolving around the Breonna Taylor slaying on March 13, 2020, according to the prosecution.While working downtown on May 28, Crews was “accosted by a female protestor,” according to the filing. A picture of this encounter was published in The Courier-Journal, and Crews, prosecutors said, posted a comment on Facebook that “expresses delight at the prospect of a pepperball gun being used to cause pain to this particular prosecutor.”The picture appears to show a female protester handing Crews a flower, but Crews wrote that the woman "was saying and doing a lot more than 'offering flowers' to me."P.S. I hope the pepper balls that she got lit up with a little hurt," she wrote on Facebook. "Come back and get you some tonight ole girl, I'll be on the line again tonight."The prosecution argued that Crews’ actions “were likely motivated, at least in part, by these emotions. However, (the prosecution) did not identify any uses of excessive force by Defendant Crews predating the incident.”And since the incident, Crews has maintained employment and is a contributing member to society, according to the sentencing recommendation. She works as a K-9 handler, though not with law enforcement, according to the sentencing filing. “Given the circumstances, a sentence of probation is sufficient to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant," the U.S. Attorney's office concluded. Attorneys for McAtee’s family said, "Ms. Crews accepted responsibility for her role in this and the family feels that sending her to prison would only make it worse when it is the LMPD as a whole that inadequately trained her and sent her there that night that deserves the lion's share of blame."The incident and subsequent death of McAtee, killed by a Kentucky National Guard soldier, occurred after Louisville police and guard members arrived at Dino’s Food Mart at 26th Street and Broadway in the Russell neighborhood to disperse a crowd in violation of the then-citywide curfew in response to protests over the death of Taylor.Crews told investigators she shot at Machelle McAtee because she "didn't comply" with orders. Machelle McAtee was standing in the doorway of a private business. Video shows that as Machelle McAtee is pulled inside by David McAtee, he leans out the door and fires a bullet. When he reaches out and fires again seconds later, Crews, LMPD Officer Allen Austin and two members of the National Guard returned fire, 18 shots in total.An unidentified guardsman fired the only bullet that struck and killed McAtee, 53. He was shot once in the chest.Copyright 2023 Media. All Rights Reserved.
A Kentucky State Police captain and mother of two is accusing the agency in an ongoing lawsuit of sex discrimination by passing her up for promotions given instead to male colleagues.Kentucky State Police Captain Jennifer Sandlin, a captain who joined KSP after graduating from the training academy in 2003, is the commander of Post 13, which is based in Hazard and covers parts of Perry, Breathitt, Letcher, Leslie and Knott counties. She is the first female commander in Post 13 history and previously worked in numerous roles for Post 9 out of Pikeville. But Sandlin said her efforts to move up in rank have failed each time due to her gender and her status as a mother. Sandlin, 42, is a mother of two children who are 17 and 14 years old. Her husband retired from KSP in 2020. In August, Sandlin filed her lawsuit against KSP and the state in Franklin Circuit Court, alleging sex discrimination. Sandlin is represented by well-known Louisville attorney Thomas Clay, who noted the case has moved forward this month with back and forth arguments on producing evidence. Specifically, Clay said the attorneys for the defendants objected in January to his request that he said seeks to uncover “disparate treatment” between male and female troopers and the travel arrangements offered to personnel depending on their gender, with KSP counsel claiming producing the records is “burdensome” and not relevant to the case. Local crime news:Prosecutors recommend probation, not prison, for ex-LMPD officer in David McAtee caseClay also pointed to the “Command Staff” section of KSP’s website and how it features photos showing how each leader is currently a white man. Since the first female trooper graduated from the KSP training academy in 1978, five women have risen above the rank of captain, the attorney for Sandlin noted. “I want somebody to explain that to me,” Clay told The Courier Journal. “Are there no qualified female command personnel within KSP to fill those positions? It’s very troubling.” Claims made in a lawsuit represent one side of a case. A KSP spokesperson said the agency, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, does not comment on pending litigation. But in a court filing, apart from acknowledging KSP had vacancies for the position of major, attorneys for the agency and the state otherwise largely denied the allegations and asked a judge to dismiss Sandlin’s complaint. Sandlin, who earned a forensic science degree from Eastern Kentucky University, claims in her suit she qualified and applied for various openings for Major positions over the years. That included in 2018, when KSP had openings for Major at its Forensic Laboratory Branch and as commander of its Operational Support Troop. A male captain was selected over Sandlin for each of those positions, according to the suit. In July, Kentucky State Police had an opening for the position of Major to serve as chief information officer that Sandlin again qualified for and applied for, but KSP picked a male captain, the suit says. “The selection by KSP of males over the Plaintiff established a pattern of discrimination on the basis of sex, contrary to KRS 344.020,” Sandlin’s lawsuit claims, citing the state law outlawing discrimination on the basis of sex and other protected categories. Louisville police under Shields:How the LMPD is different & what is still the sameClay said Sandlin feels like leadership at KSP has viewed her role as a mother as somehow limiting her time and ability to serve in a more senior position.Sandlin, who has also held the rank of trooper, sergeant and lieutenant, helped pilot the first Angel Initiative program for KSP’s Post 9 in Eastern Kentucky. The Angel Initiative aims to offer treatment, rather than incarceration, to those struggling with addiction. Last year, Sandlin received a lifetime achievement award from the Kentucky Women’s Law Enforcement Network, with a news release highlighting her “exceptional work in efforts to be a positive role model for other women in law enforcement,” including by organizing the first-ever retreat for female KSP personnel. “Captain Sandlin stated that she was nearing the end of her career and wanted to ensure that other female troopers were getting the same opportunities to network and support each other that she had during her career,” said the award announcement that was posted in November on KSP’s website. Sandlin is seeking, among other requests, an unspecified amount of damages for lost wages, a jury trial, injunctive relief and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at trial. This is not the first case against KSP alleging sex discrimination, with some appeals relating to promotions and others dealing with physical requirements for employment. In 1979, for example, courts upheld Kentucky State Police’s minimum height requirement of 5 feet 6 inches that was in place at the time for state troopers, after two female candidates had filed discrimination complaints against it with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. Reach Billy Kobin at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Jan. 2, businessman Craig Greenberg was sworn in as Louisville’s 51st mayor. The former 21c Museum Hotels CEO inherits a city where trust in city government — and particularly law enforcement — remains frayed following the March 2020 police killing of Breonna Taylor and months of protests that followed. Greenberg’s opponents warned he would be a continuation of the administration of Greg Fischer, another businessman turned politician, who led Louisville for the last 12 years. But Greenberg is adamant that his administration will forge a new direction and change the way things are done in Kentucky’s largest city. Here are four challenges that the new administration will face. PUBLIC SAFETY Public safety was Greenberg’s marquee issue on the campaign trail and remains at the top of his agenda in office. In his inauguration speech at Metro Hall on Jan. 2, Greenberg said his administration’s “first and highest priority” is “making Louisville a safer city.” “That means a city where we all feel safe, in every neighborhood, every business, every park and every bus stop. That’s critical and necessary everywhere, and especially right here as we work to reinvigorate our beautiful downtown,” he added. After back-to-back years of record-setting homicide numbers in 2020 and 2021, Louisville saw about an 8% drop in homicides last year according to statistics released by the Louisville Metro Police Department in late December. LMPD also said non-fatal shootings had dropped by a third from 2021. Greenberg, who survived an assassination attempt at his Butchertown campaign office last February, says while the city’s short-staffed police department needs to be bolstered, they are only one part of reducing violence. “Becoming a safer and more just city is essential to everything we do. And let me be clear: improving public safety is about much more than policing. It’s also about preventing as many crimes as possible through outreach, investment, communication, building trust, community violence intervention strategies, which we will expand,” he said in his inaugural address. “Making our city safer means taking on historic challenges like poverty, substance abuse, childhood trauma, mental health, hopelessness and all the factors that put too many people on a path that leads to crime and tragedy.” As of this writing, Louisville has seen four homicides over the first 60 hours of 2023. LMPD REFORM Parallel to Greenberg’s message of public safety were his calls to make LMPD the “best trained, the most trusted and most transparent police department in America.” Fulfilling that goal is likely a long road. Trust in police in Louisville remains low after the killing of Breonna Taylor, a heavy-handed response to protests that followed and further instances of police misconduct coming to light. The department is currently facing a wide-ranging Department of Justice pattern or practice investigation that is ultimately expected to result in a potentially long and costly federal consent decree. Separately, the DOJ has indicted seven LMPD officers on federal misconduct charges in the past year alone. In October, two of those officers were sentenced to prison for assaulting pedestrians by throwing drinks from unmarked police vehicles; while one officer involved in the drinks-throwing received three months in prison, the other received two and a half years for his additional role in a scheme where he used police technology to help hack and extort with stolen sexually explicit material. Katie Crews, the LMPD officer who fired pepper balls in the moments leading up to the fatal shooting of West End barbecue chef David McAtee on June 1, 2020, is set to be sentenced later this month. And of four LMPD officers charged in relation to the March 2020 raid that killed Breonna Taylor, one has pleaded guilty while three await trial. Under former Mayor Greg Fischer, the city said it was working to get ahead of the DOJ’s findings by making proactive reforms. In May, then Chief of Police Erika Shields told Metro Council that there were things in LMPD’s outdated lesson plans she was embarrassed by and that she wanted more civilian oversight of police training. (Investigations by LEO Weekly found LMPD training materials that portrayed police as avengers who carry out God’s wrath as well as a course that aimed to have students be able to “identify aspects of Hispanic/Latino culture that may pose hazards to law enforcement.” Reporting by WDRB uncovered LMPD warrant training materials that included the Ernest Hemingway quote “there is no hunting like the hunting of man and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never really care for anything else thereafter.”) In November, Shields announced she would be stepping down in the new administration, later saying she had essentially been given the option of resigning or being fired. Speaking to KET last month, Shields warned that she expected the DOJ report on LMPD to be “scathing” and said she feared that a high turnover rate in leadership at the department could lead to officer misconduct. In early December, Greenberg announced that Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel — who was Shields’ hand-selected second-in-command — would lead the embattled department as interim chief of police the day he took office.
A makeshift memorial in downtown Louisville, Ky., for Breonna Taylor in September 2020.(Jason Armond/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)The city of Louisville, Kentucky has unveiled a historical marker honoring the life of Breonna Taylor and the protest movement that followed her death. The historical marker was unveiled on December 28, 2022 in a private ceremony.“Built in 1978, Jefferson Square Park memorializes first responders killed in the line of duty. In 2020, it became a rallying place for those demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman tragically killed by Louisville Metro Police serving a search warrant. Protesters called this space ‘Injustice Square Park’ and held demonstrations that drew global attention,” the historical marker reads.“Over 2,000 U.S. cities saw racial justice protests fueled by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and others. Locally, these demonstrations prompted police reform and policy changes to improve racial equity in the city. Many here also mourned Louisvillians David McAtee and photographer Tyler Gerth, killed in incidents related to the protests.”The historical marker lands in Jefferson Square Park two weeks after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, reached a $2 million settlement with the city. Walker and Taylor were at their apartment on March 13, 2020 when officers entered and let off nearly three dozen rounds. Taylor was hit multiple times and pronounced dead at the scene. It is a moment in time that attorney Steve Romines says “will haunt Kenny for the rest of his life.”“He will live with the effects of being put in harm’s way due to a falsified warrant, to being a victim of a hailstorm of gunfire and to suffering the unimaginable and horrific death of Breonna Taylor,” Romines added, per NPR.[embedded content]
Before thousands marched in downtown Louisville for racial justice in 2020, thousands did the same in west Louisville during the 1960s.The unveiling on Friday in downtown Louisville was more than 50 years in the making. It was a surreal moment for the families of five men and one woman, known as the "Black Six.""She would love it. She loved history, she was a history major, so she would know that this would be an opportunity for people to ask questions," said Cheri Bryant-Hamilton, the daughter of Ruth Bryant.Ruth was one of those arrested. Back in 1968, a week-long protest ensued after a violent encounter between a Louisville police officer and a Black school teacher in west Louisville.During the protest in the Parkland neighborhood, police falsely charged six people with conspiracy charges related to the rebellion."The criminal conspiracy charges against them were dismissed in 1970," said Mayor Greg Fischer.But the damage was already done, with some of those involved losing their livelihoods and more."She sued for malicious prosecution and for the damages that were done to not just her but to all of the guys in the Black Six. It never went anywhere, it got anywhere as far as the federal court," Bryant-Hamilton said.It wasn't until 2022, more than 50 years after it happened, when a sitting Louisville mayor apologized to the members of the Black Six and their families."That's the apology that we had been waiting on for years and years. We never brought that up and never asked anybody to bring that up," said Sam Hawkins, who was falsely charged.Now, this marker sits just feet away from another marker, one honoring the lives of Tyler Gerth, David McAtee & Breonna Taylor, whose death during an LMPD police raid sparked a similar movement in Louisville in 2020."Hopefully, if they go see that, they'll come over here & there will be an opportunity for discussion & learning," Bryant-Hamilton said. LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Before thousands marched in downtown Louisville for racial justice in 2020, thousands did the same in west Louisville during the 1960s.The unveiling on Friday in downtown Louisville was more than 50 years in the making. It was a surreal moment for the families of five men and one woman, known as the "Black Six."
Hired in 2021 to lead a broken Louisville Metro Police Department, Chief Erika Shields promised reform, transparency and restoration of confidence in city police.Her tenure came after years of high-profile incidents shrouded in secrecy that eroded public trust, including the sexual abuse of children in the department’s Explorer Scout program and the police killing of Breonna Taylor, an unarmed Black woman who was shot during the execution of a "no-knock" warrant in a failed drug investigation.Though Shields did implement reforms, she has largely failed to rebuild community trust, a Courier Journal review found. And critics say the reforms that were done, happened behind closed doors with little visibility to the public.“We needed her to be a leader,” said Metro Councilmember James Peden, R-23rd, who served on Mayor Greg Fischer’s chief selection committee in 2020 and is vice chair of the council’s public safety committee. “I’m not saying she hasn’t done things behind the scenes. I’m not saying we haven’t had reforms because we have. … We needed some unification between the police force and the public (and) I don’t feel any of that was taken care of.”Peden said the “biggest disappointment” was her lack of communication and interaction with the public.“What I tell you is I’m here to fight for you, I’m here to listen to you and I’m here to help us bring forward the transformation that you all want to see within LMPD so that the department is a model that we can all stand proud of,” Shields said when she was sworn in on Jan. 6, 2021.Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said Shields was a leader who stepped up when the city really needed her, calling her one of the best police chiefs in America."She came in a time when our police force needed some stability and an experienced hand," Fischer told the Courier Journal. He said she introduced a culture of no-nonsense for bad officer behavior and laid the foundation for the improvements that are underway.Fischer said one of the most significant long-term improvements she made was restructuring the training division to include civilians who help with legal instruction, curriculum development and academic direction. Another has been implementing many of the reform recommendations in the Hillard Heintze report, a top-to-bottom review of the department by an independent firm that Fischer ordered on the heels of Taylor's death.Metro Council President David James, D-6th, a former police officer who will relinquish his position as council president in January, said he would have liked to see Shields regularly update the community on crime, recruitment efforts, homicide numbers and the status of reforms. He said his constituents have been vocal about how she hasn’t taken time to meet with anybody, and police officers feel like she’s absent and isolated herself from the rest of the department.“As far as relating to officers or communicating to the community in the form of helping build back relations or being transparent with the media, she didn’t do any of that,” James said. “She has done a great job fixing the problems that the former chief (Steve Conrad) created as it relates to the administration of the police department.“She was not as transparent as the selection committee had hoped she would be and that she purported to be with the community.”Incoming Mayor Craig Greenberg asked Shields to submit her resignation, effective when he takes office Jan. 2. Deputy Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel, who Shields brought to Louisville from her previous post in Atlanta, will serve as interim chief while the new mayor’s office conducts a national search for a permanent replacement.Shields declined multiple requests to talk to The Courier Journal for this story. She also declined at least a dozen interview requests with the newspaper’s reporters since she took office nearly two years ago.The Courier Journal had a difficult time obtaining details about the reforms Shields put in place, but reviewed past reporting, Shields’ public statements and information sought from the department’s public information arm for this story.Here’s a look at several parts of the department and changes − or lack thereof − since Shields was hired.Officer disciplineShields in February 2021 acknowledged that backlogged complaints against officers and incomplete internal affairs cases were impeding officer discipline and accountability. Those issues, combined with files tracked on paper at the time, rendered the department’s progressive disciplinary system useless, she said.An electronic system intended to provide better information was underway in February 2021, but it’s unclear where that system stands.As chief, Shields is the sole disciplinary authority in the department. Findings from the units that look into police misconduct only make disciplinary recommendations. During her two years with the department, she has fired several officers including:Katie Crews, the officer who, by violating multiple department policies, instigated a situation that led to the fatal shooting of David McAtee, a West End BBQ owner. She was fired in February 2022, roughly 21 months after the incident, and pleaded guilty to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law, a federal misdemeanor charge.Sgt. Kyle Meany, the officer who oversaw the since-disbanded Place-based Investigations unit that secured the warrant to search Breonna Taylor’s apartment. He was fired in August 2022 after a federal indictment alleged he approved the warrant despite knowing the search included false, misleading and out-of-date information. Shields cited the federal charges and a policy violation as grounds for his termination.Christopher Palombi, an LMPD officer who threatened to kill several of his colleagues. Though he was not charged with a crime, a Professional Standards Unit investigation found he violated multiple policies.Donald Johnson, an officer who while working for the Hardin County Sheriff's Office prior to his LMPD employment was involved in a violent arrest. Johnson was seen on video punching a handcuffed man following a traffic stop.Shields also initiated the firing of Kelly Goodlett, an officer who pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to falsifying information in the Taylor warrant, but she retired instead.Now-former LMPD officer Harry Seeders remained on the force for 16 months after a domestic violence incident with his girlfriend following an argument at his home that "turned physical." He was charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault. At the time he was already on administrative leave for fatally shooting a man during a Portland traffic stop in November 2020. Seeders was charged again in October 2022 for distributing nude photos of a woman without her consent and quit not long after his second arrest.There have also been instances when Shields condemned officer behavior but didn’t formally discipline them.Aaron Ambers, the officer who was caught on video punching Denorver "Dee" Garrett in the face during a protest, was exonerated after a year-long internal investigation. His supervisors were required to attend formal training on de-escalation but were also exonerated.In correspondence relating to the investigation, Shields condemned Ambers' actions, saying he could have made better decisions but he complied with all policies in place at the time of the incident. She said the supervisory staff "neglected to apply critical teachings" in de-escalation.Officer Matthew Schrenger was investigated for marching in uniform with protesters outside of a downtown abortion clinic in 2021 and later exonerated by Shields, despite writing in a letter that "there is no question" he participated in a protest in uniform. She said she later revised a department policy to bar officers from participating in religious or political controversies while in uniform or in their patrol car.The city later paid Schrenger $75,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging his right to free speech was violated.Domestic violenceShields cut five detectives from the city’s domestic violence unit in the spring of 2021, a unit already struggling with its caseload and short two officers at the time. In 2022, there was a 60% increase in domestic violence-related homicides.She made the reductions despite a rising number of domestic violence incidents and warnings from officials including County Attorney Mike O’Connell about the detrimental impact it would have.Spokeswoman Angela Ingram told The Courier Journal in September that the changes were made to curb the “unprecedented” number of homicides in 2021. In 2020, the 13-officer unit was assigned 4,600 cases; in 2021, 5,400 cases were assigned to the unit's eight officers and two civilian investigators; in 2022 the unit was assigned more than 4,000 cases through September."This decision is likely to have a detrimental effect on our whole community, and especially to DV victims," warned Dorislee Gilbert, head of the Mary Byron Project, a Louisville-based organization that seeks to end intimate partner violence.Accountability and Improvement BureauShields, in an op-ed The Courier Journal published in September 2022, mentioned creation of the department’s Accountability and Improvement Bureau, which she said focuses on reforms, audits and training. Four new areas that are part of the bureau include the audit team, the performance review board, a wellness unit and the early intervention system.AuditsThe audit team, comprised of a sergeant and five civilian auditors, assesses officer performance in areas like domestic violence responses, use of force investigations along with stops, searches and arrests. The team is in the process of conducting its first audit on compliance with body-worn cameras, according to Lt. Andy Rodman, commander of the department’s performance section.With the domestic violence response audit, for example, the team will select a random representative sample of cases and determine whether officers filled out the correct paperwork, whether they followed all applicable state laws and whether they canvassed the scene for evidence, Rodman said.Once the audit for a particular topic is established, the data will be sent to commanders in each division monthly. It’s a way for the department to identify trends, deficiencies, training gaps, equipment needs or necessary policy revisions.Performance Review BoardThe performance review board will look at “significant events” like officer shootings and make recommendations related to policies, training, tactics, supervision, organizational structure, technology and equipment that would help improve officer and supervisor performance, Rodman said. The board can’t recommend discipline but is obligated to refer any potential criminal misconduct to the Special Investigations Division.Of the 12 voting members, seven will be appointed from various police divisions and five will be positional. In addition, there will be three regular nonvoting experts along with expert witnesses who will serve on a case-by-case basis.The policy that establishes the board and details how it will function is completed but the members haven’t been chosen. Rodman hopes they’ll start reviewing incidents early in 2023.WellnessShields created the wellness unit in 2021 to focus on the physical, mental, spiritual, financial and social health of officers, said unit head Lt. Joel Lopez.This year, Lopez hopes to create lists of resources for officers seeking counseling or mental health help, establish programs and events that support wellness and promote healthy principles like sleeping, eating healthy and having a primary care physician.Lopez said wellness can have a huge impact on officer performance and behavior.“What we see is officers who (for example) are physically in shape and mentally sound but their finances are a mess and their girlfriends are toxic. Over time that’s going to affect their wellness altogether and then they’re going to be poor officers on the street," Lopez said.A full-time department chaplain was hired in November and part-time volunteer chaplains were increased from five to 17 since Shields took over. The clergy help de-escalate critical incidents in the community and the plan is to try and make the clergy available to support officers, Lopez said.Early intervention systemFor more than 11 years, the department has written into its policies the framework for a system meant to flag officers who could be at risk for misconduct or in need of additional support. It wasn’t until the spring of 2022 that the program was finally rolled out.Promised as part of the 2020 settlement agreement with Taylor’s family, the early intervention system was created to help officers who might need more training or mental health support. The system tracks in real-time firearms discharges, use of force reports, vehicle pursuits or disciplinary incidents not handled by the Professional Standards Unit along with records deviations from the statistics of other officers with similar jobs in their division. The commanding officer of someone flagged for an intervention meeting can determine whether the officer needs re-training or guidance. The purpose is to open a line of communication between officers and commanders to understand why incidents might be occurring, Lopez said.The system is part of the wellness unit.Traffic stopsDespite numerous reports since 2000 documenting the disproportionate rate at which Black drivers are pulled over and searched by LMPD compared to their white counterparts, the department hasn’t made any changes.Even though there were fewer stops amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of stops involving Black drivers hasn’t wavered.A September 2022 review of data from 2020 to 2022 found 33% of drivers pulled over and 53% of drivers searched were Black. About 20% of the city’s population is Black, according to the 2020 Census. Black men make up 9% of the city’s population but account for 45% of police searches.The results from a 2019 review were similar, and the Heintze report also found racial disparities in arrest, traffic stop and field contact data.Diversity and equityThe Heintze report found that LMPD lacks diversity within the department and that community and officer perception indicates the department is generally unwelcoming of Black officers.In 2021, Shields said that 12% of LMPD staff members, 6% of sergeants and 10% of lieutenants were Black.During a May 2022 budget hearing, Shields said the department isn’t making the “inroads” it would like to hire Black officers. She said at that time about 15% of LMPD officers and recruits are Black.“I know we’re not where we need to be,” she said, adding that so few Black applicants and commanders it's hard to make promotions. Shields hired an equity and diversity manager, Minerva Virola.Breonna Taylor reformsThough the $12 million settlement between the city and Breonna Taylor’s family predates Shields, at least two of the reforms meant to improve relations between officers and the community remain unused under her tenure.The settlement offers housing credits for officers who choose to live in certain low-income census tracts in the city, but as of this month, LMPD said no officers have taken advantage of the opportunity.Another reform in the settlement encourages officers to perform at least two paid hours a week of community service. A spokeswoman for LMPD said the department is in the process of determining “the most efficient way” to track volunteer work of officers who regularly engage in community-based voluntary activities.In September, the department in a statement said allowing officers to volunteer during their regular work hours would result in coverage gaps because of understaffing.Impediments to the civilian review and accountability boardThe Police Civilian Review and Accountability Board and inspector general’s office were created following Taylor’s death to hold LMPD accountable through independent investigations and policy recommendations.Though the board and its investigators have been operating since June, they’re being denied access by the department to unredacted information related to police incidents. In addition, officers are not participating in interviews, despite a clause in the governing ordinance requiring cooperation.Inspector General Edward Harness told The Courier Journal in November that a memorandum of understanding was pending approval by Kentucky State Police, the agency responsible for the type of information LMPD claims is protected. Another pending agreement between LMPD and the office would clarify terms under which officers would cooperate in non-criminal investigations.Harness expected approval on both agreements in November, but last week said there’s been no change.Signal sidearmFischer fired then-LMPD Chief Steve Conrad in 2020 after finding none of the officers involved in the McAtee shooting had their body cameras turned on. Fischer called the incident an “institutional failure” and mandated body cameras be worn at all times.LMPD purchased a holster, the Axon Signal Sidearm, for all officers that would automatically turn on an officer’s body-worn camera when the gun is removed. The equipment is expected to be fully deployed by February 2023.Systemic changeFischer said a lot of Shields' reforms, especially related to the Heintze report, laid the foundation for what the Department of Justice will likely recommend when the pattern or practice investigation is complete. He said the Accountability and Improvement Bureau will be the vehicle for implementing some of those changes.Brian Higgins, a former New Jersey police chief and an adjunct professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said two years isn't enough time for real, systemic change. He said it's enough time to start "turning the ship," though.Higgins said agencies that are successful often break down the reforms and set both shorter- and longer-term goals.“If you bring in another chief who is going to continue the same measures this chief was doing, what’s the sense? What’s the purpose? If you’re going to go in another direction again, now you’re really affecting the long-term culture of the agency," Higgins said. "It’s never good for an agency to have constant change."Higgins said the leaders of the best departments have a relationship with the community. Community buy-in is important when implementing policy changes. It's not uncommon for a city with a strong mayoral position to limit what the chief can say, he said."At the end of the day the chief is just an employee," he said.
AP Top Stories December 29 AM AP Top Stories December 29 AM 01:00 LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — A historical marker has been unveiled in Kentucky that memorializes the death of Breonna Taylor, the ensuing racial justice protests that swept the city, and two other deaths related to the demonstrations, officials said.Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer attended the unveiling of the marker in Jefferson Square Park on Wednesday with family and friends of Taylor, David McAtee, and Tyler Gerth, a statement from his office said.The marker is labeled "2020 Racial Justice Protests" and says the park became a rallying place for those demanding justice after Taylor was killed during a police raid at her apartment in March 2020.
A new historical marker recognizing the 2020 protests that followed the police killing of Breonna Taylor has been unveiled at Jefferson Square Park, a central location for the demonstrations.Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer joined members of Taylor's family along with family members of David "YaYa" McAtee and Tyler Gerth on Wednesday in a private ceremony "at the request of the families" to mark the occasion. The marker recognizes their deaths and details what took place at the downtown park in the summer of 2020, where protests for racial equity took place in Louisville and across the U.S.Taylor was killed in March 2020 during a raid by Louisville Metro Police officers serving a no-knock warrant at her apartment. Her death, and other high-profile killings of Black Americans like Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, sparked a protest movement in the city that summer that lasted through the end of the year.From November:Louisville reaches $2M settlement with Kenneth Walker, Breonna Taylor's boyfriendMcAtee was killed at a barbecue stand he operated in early June as LMPD officers and National Guard members worked to disperse a crowd that had gathered near the property following one of the protests. And Gerth, a photographer who had documented the protests, was shot and killed at the park later that month.Steven Lopez was charged with murder in Gerth's death, with charges still pending in court, while former LMPD officer Katie Crews pleaded guilty to misdemeanor federal charges related to McAtee's death.In his statement Wednesday, Fischer said the memorial "will in no way diminish the tremendous pain that they suffer still,” but was an important step in acknowledging the history of what took place that summer, along with "the important reforms and policy changes that resulted and are still underway.”“I remain deeply, deeply sorry for Breonna’s death and the deaths of YaYa and Tyler, and the incredible pain their families and our entire community experienced in the summer of 2020 and still to this day,” Fischer said. “My team and I agreed early on that the only way to honor that pain was to find the truth that leads to justice – and to take the necessary steps to ensure this never happens again.”Breonna Taylor's mother, Tamika Palmer, was in attendance Wednesday. In the release, she said she was "grateful" to stand alongside the other families and the marker is an important step in "ensuring our babies do not get swept away in history.""There is so much work to be done, but actions like the one taken today help further that work," Taylor said.Related:Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer: 'My job was to get our city through' tough timesThe marker, labeled "2020 Racial Justice Protests," says the following:"Built in 1978, Jefferson Square Park memorializes first responders killed in the line of duty. In 2020, it became a rallying place for those demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a Black woman tragically killed by Louisville Metro Police serving a search warrant. Protesters called this space 'Injustice Square Park' and held demonstrations that drew global attention.""Over 2,000 U.S. cities saw racial justice protests fueled by the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and others. Locally, these demonstrations prompted police reform and policy changes to improve racial equity in the city. Many here also mourned Louisvillians David McAtee and photographer Tyler Gerth, killed in incidents related to the protests."The unveiling was a private ceremony at the request of the families of the three slain individuals. Before it, Fischer thanked the families of the three people for their contributions to the city, adding, "the marker will in no way diminish the tremendous pain that they suffer still, but we believed it was critical that we acknowledge the history behind the tragedies of 2020, the resulting demonstrations, and reason for the important reforms and policy changes that resulted and are still underway."Reach Caleb Stultz at email@example.com.