Admiration does not begin to describe how I feel about Louisville’s police. The same can be said of our firemen, and especially our military. Every day, they go to work and do something that I could not. When I get home at night, I judge the day by how satisfied I am with a column. Policemen, firemen, military, they judge their day by whether or not they return home safely.
Sergeant Dave Mutchler has been on the police force since 1997 and served in Iraq with his Marine Corps infantry company in ’03 and ’04. He is currently in his third term as president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). By modern day standards, he is a hero, and one letter should not define a man or his life.
That said, Sergeant Mutchler needs to resign his position for the good of his FOP brothers and sisters, as well as the community. It has become clear in recent days that his presence creates an unnecessary divide between the police, Metro government and the Louisville community, one that jeopardizes the security of all police officers and this community. He should be allowed to remain on the force, as well as continue to be an active member of the FOP, but he can no longer effectively serve as FOP president.
For those who do not know, the FOP is the police union, and Lodge 614 is the group comprising the Louisville Metro Police. Its president is elected by his or her colleagues, policemen and women of the FOP, to be their spokesperson and representative. The primary responsibilities of the president fall to negotiating contracts with the city as it relates to wages, hours and benefits, and in the event that an officer needs legal representation, helping to provide that service.
However, there are several other stated roles of the FOP president. In the open letter Sergeant Mutchler wrote to the community, several startling statements were made that were out of place, inappropriate, hostile, unprofessional, undisciplined and simply wrong. These statements now make it very difficult for him to successfully fulfill his duties as president.
First, he wrote, “To the sensationalists, liars and race-baiters — we are done with you.” As tempting as it can be at times, no police officer should ever think “We are done with you.” That mentality would jeopardize every citizen as well as other officers. I refuse to believe that this statement is how any police officer ever operates, despite facing seemingly unreasonable high pressure and public scrutiny.
He continued, “If your behavior or untruths causes harm to us or the public, we will make every attempt to have you investigated, charged and prosecuted at the local, state or federal level.” While there are many technical issues with this statement, what Sergeant Mutchler is actually threatening is that if people voice their opposition to police actions, they will be subject to investigation and prosecution by the state.
The Mayor released a statement Monday, in which he said, “When we sign up for public service, we are held to a high standard and at times face criticism — some of it constructive and reasonable, some of it dishonest or unfair, all of it allowed under the First Amendment … Sergeant Mutchler also has a First Amendment right to speak his mind.”
So often the First Amendment and “freedom of speech” are misused as a defense for an inaccurate or inappropriate statement. In reality, freedom of speech only guarantees someone the right to speak freely without fearing censorship or retribution from their government — the state. The letter, written by Sergeant Mutchler, an enforcement agent of the state, implicitly threatens that he and his members will now investigate, charge and prosecute those who publicly dissent against the police — an actual, clear threat to all of our First Amendment rights.
Further, he said to an undefined “you,” “If you refuse to comply or even worse, attack a law enforcement officer, expect to be met with force,” and “Your ridiculous demands and anti-law enforcement attitude has reached a level that is unacceptable. You want our attention? Well you have it. Consider yourselves on notice.”
Sergeant Mutchler is entitled to his opinion, and he has every right to issue the statement that he did. The First Amendment, however, does not protect him from public scrutiny, nor does it protect him from losing his leadership position with the FOP, or even his job. While I am not calling for his job, he could be fired for this, legally.
The FOP serves several important roles for the community, and all of Louisville’s finest. It needs a leader who can represent the entire force from a position of strength, and Sergeant Mutchler has undermined his own credibility and ability to continue to do so. Out of respect for the best interest and safety of his borthers and sisters of the FOP, as well as the community he has served for nearly two decades, it is time for him to resign.