Is Louisville a police city or compassionate city? It is up to you

When Louisville Metro Council votes on the city budget on June 28, it will show whether we are a compassionate city, or a police state.

As it stands, 39.6 percent of the proposed budget, $256,166,000, is going to law enforcement including Louisville Metro Police Department, Youth Detention Services, the Department of Corrections and the Criminal Justice Commission.

Nearly 40 percent of your local taxes are likely to go to the police and jailing people from our community.

We may not live in a police state, but the budget proposal shows we live in a police city.

Meanwhile, though the proposed budget for Louisville Free Public Library has increased by $2.56 million since the 2016-2017 fiscal year to $20,476,800, how that money is being spent is of concern to many civic-minded Louisvillians. The new, 40,000-square-foot Northeast Regional branch, being constructed with a $17.8 million endowment from the state, will contain an auditorium, meeting rooms, maker spaces and reading rooms.

To offset the operating costs of this opulent East End facility, the Main Library is being gutted. Eighteen employees will be transferred to the new branch, and the entire second floor will be closed to patrons.

The Main Library serves downtown and The West End. Many residents who lack internet access and other services depend on the branch. Courier Journal reported that Mayor Greg Fischer told residents improvements were made to the Shawnee and Western branches, and that services at the downtown branch won’t change.

But in a CJ article this May, union spokesperson and library employee Cole Sites said, “Diverting funds from the main library, which serves and provides services for western Louisville, downtown residents, the homeless population and disabled folks to fund a library for the most affluent residents in the county is unacceptable.”

Why should there be any debate about cutting back library services when so much money is likely to go to the police?

The massive funding going to LMPD is business as usual, despite major concerns about how they have spent money in the recent past. In May, the mayor delayed the release of a report investigating, among other things, when officials overseeing LMPD (including Chief Steve Conrad and Mayor Greg Fischer) knew about allegations that cops were raping teens in the city’s Explorer Program.

In November 2017, WDRB reported that half of a $1.2 million endowment for overtime meant to cut violent crime was used within six weeks. Several officers claimed back-to-back, 17-hour work-days, approaching 200 hours of overtime in a single two-week pay period.

Spend any time in The West End, and you’ll see the way cops over-police, disrespectfully speak to citizens through the loudspeakers inside their cars and aggressively profile residents.

LMPD routinely uses excessive force. In April of this year alone, police killed four Louisville residents. That month, LMPD announced it would implement de-escalation training, but the $210,000 outlined in the proposed budget for training and education fees for LMPD is only $400 more than it was in the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

WDRB reported in January that the probationary period for new officers is being cut to 16 weeks from 24 weeks. If the answer to police violence is more and better training, how does it make sense to put rookie cops on the street after just four months?

LMPD gets the lion’s share of the city’s budget. The cost of their health insurance alone, $27,106,900 proposed this year, is $5,338,900 more than the city’s entire budget for Public Health and Wellness. And Louisville Free Public Library is slated to receive even less than that.

The majority of the city’s investment in The West End is likely to be more money for LMPD to further profile and criminalize area residents.

Metro Council has the power to question and change this budget, and you have a right to ask your council member to challenge the way our tax dollars are used.

Call and demand accountability as to why the downtown library is being cut, while so many questions remain about the way LMPD spends its perennially massive share of Louisville’s resources.