“You come for me, you’d better bring your damned hard hat and lunch pail because it’s going to be a long fucking day. You’re not getting out of here without a struggle,” Dr. Ricky L. Jones said when asked about critics who opposed his appointment to the city’s Citizens Commission on Police Accountability.
What’s the big deal?
“You would think I was being elected mayor or governor or emperor by the way these people were acting,” Jones said in a recent interview. “What you saw during this process, and what I was really interested in exposing, was a brazen display of white privilege, racial insensitivity and disrespect. It wasn’t about that board.”
The 11-member panel doesn’t have any true power. It is, at best, a mechanism for alerting the mayor and police chief when it finds an internal police investigation into a shooting or police-involved death has been inadequate. It can issue recommendations to change training and policies.
Essentially, no cops can be harmed in this experiment.
Despite this, Metro Council members Julie Denton and Brent Ackerson and Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Dave Mutchler took valuable city and citizen time to have a public conniption about the appointment of Jones, who is chair of Pan African Studies at the UofL.
In the end, Jones won.
The council approved his nomination by an 11-8 margin.
Now that the vote has passed, Jones said, his intention is to work with his fellow panel members so that the commission can “help us have the most effective, decent and humane police department we can have, and one of the safest, most-democratic and attractive cities we can have. I think all of those things go hand in hand.”
“I look forward to making this board as powerful as it can possibly be — as effective as it can possibly be. I don’t have all the answers on what that will look like. I’m one of 11,” he said.
As for those who voted against his appointment or abstained, Jones said: “Some people in this, as has happened before, ended up on the wrong side of history. Everybody’s got to do what they feel they’ve got to do to sleep well at night.”
He believes his opponents wasted time and money to oppose Jones because of what they claim is an issue of, as Ackerson put it, temperament and respect. Mutchler accused Jones of being biased against police officers. Jones has repeatedly refuted this claim and said, “This narrative that Dave Mutchler wants to paint — that all police support him — that’s a lie. There have been a number of officers who’ve come up to me and said I support you and what you’re doing.”
The controversy likely won’t stop with the appointment of Jones. When I attempted to contact the offices of Denton, Ackerson and Mutchler. Only Ackerson’s legislative aide Jeff T. Noble responded. The answer was to politely decline a response on the matter.
Jones is not without support. Many showed up at the meetings, were present for the vote and cheered for Jones. “The support from the community over the last few weeks has been overwhelming — all of the people who showed up at council. I’ve been in Louisville 21 years and that was the first time it felt like home. I was almost moved to tears by the support that I received,” he said.
As we talk, Jones doesn’t mince words. He never resorts to the attacks he’s often the recipient of, but rather he dissects with precision what he sees as a fundamental problem with opposition to his appointment. “I’ve always maintained that this was not about the advisory board. It’s an 11-member panel. I don’t think my personality is so powerful that I’m going to go in and force everyone to go the way that I go,” he said. “Even if I did; it has no ability to hire, no ability to fire, no ability to change policy, no ability to subpoena — no ability to do anything. Once you get down to that, then you are forced as a reasonable question to ask, what’s motivating these people.”
“These are issues of race and ideology, so deeply embedded in those people that I don’t know if they realize their issues of race and ideology but they’re certainly there,” he said.
Mutchler told WDRB his opposition is “not about race,” and that “his membership” is worried that Jones is turning its “legitimate” claims about his fitness for the committee into “issues of race and personal attacks.” These are surprisingly vague statements from Mutchler, who has himself used personal attacks in reference to Jones, often saying, without citation, that Jones is anti-police and unobjective. Mutchler followed his own pattern of ad hominem attacks speaking to WLKY immediately following the vote that approved Jones to the commission.
“People don’t want to defend themselves against being called racist, so the bully wins,” Mutchler told the TV reporter.
It is an epitaph Jones does not dismiss, but rather uses it to make his point.
“You can call me what you want — and I hope you think that I’m a bully — because every time you come, that bully is going to be standing at the door, and he understands that,” Jones said.
Jones compared this fight to boxer Mike Tyson’s loss to Evander Holyfield in 1996.
“Remember when Mike Tyson used to scare the hell out of people by walking in the ring, and the fights were over in 30 seconds? Then he ran into a Negro that actually punched back. When Evander punched Mike Tyson back, he didn’t know what the hell to do. That’s what just happened to them. They got punched back.”