LMPD, We're Asking You Once Again, End Traffic Stops Now

Erica Rucker, LEO Weekly's new editor-in-chief.
Erica Rucker, LEO Weekly's new editor-in-chief.

In 2018, Tae-Ahn Lea was pulled from his car and frisked by LMPD. There has been no clear reason given as to why this young man’s person was invaded by LMPD, including from LMPD who just can’t quite recall why they did this. They can’t recall, but Detective Gabriel Hellard claimed in an interview with their Professional Standards Unit that Lea had been “passive aggressive” and “had an attitude.”  

Recently, the Courier Journal reported Hellard said that he just couldn’t remember why he and partner Kevin Crawford removed the young man from his car. Hellard said of his colleague who has since resigned, “I can’t speak to exactly why he got him out of the car.”

There is truly so much to unpack in these statements, but the main point is, LMPD was, is and continues to act in ways that are unprofessional and do not protect the very basic human rights of the citizens in this city. 

For a teenager to not “have an attitude” is an anomaly. All teens have bad attitudes, but for white officers — truthfully for many white people — the response of a young, Black person to any demand is perceived as having a poor attitude. Even if that Black person is smiling and speaking softly. 

After 400 years of living and existing in the same space, white people still haven’t learned nor understood that Black people communicate in a visceral way. We emote with our face and our bodies. We experience fear and all of the other emotions of being human. Most people of the global majority do. But, so do white people. This assessment of Black attitudes is simply a convenient excuse to justify the continued abuse of Black citizens. It’s one of the easy white exits from responsibility. 

This young man borrowed his mother’s car to get a slushie. He did what any normal teen would be doing, and the nation that wants him to uphold the supposed values and standards of decorum of America continues to ignore those same imagined values and standards in regards to his life and ability to live and move freely about his hometown. 

That the police can’t remember why this event happened is enough to tell us that this event didn’t need to happen. It simply was another day when cops forgot the servant part of their role as public officers and abused their authority to hurt another Black person. It’s really fucking tiring. The excuses, the lies and the repetition of these same stories from LMPD is really, really growing old. Point blank LMPD, we just don’t believe anything you say anymore, and that’s on you. 

As a citizen of this country and a child born and raised in Louisville, I simply can’t recall why the current iteration of LMPD is necessary. 

To me, it seems that unless a vehicle is driving recklessly — which can be recorded on the dash cam — there is almost zero reason to do a traffic stop. Much of the work of officers — particularly these issues that result in zero bodily harm to others — is completely useless. 

As an easy first step to changing the way police work, we should end traffic stops. They are almost all useless. Traffic stops affect more than the driver that’s pulled over. They back up traffic and cause lost work and travel time for many others. They are an economic hole for citizens and only work to boost the police budget, which is magnanimously boosted yearly by our tax dollars.

As we look at the state of policing in our nation —down to the aggressive language surrounding “policing” or law “enforcement”—we should be evaluating what it is that this organization should truly be doing and when they should be doing it. 

We live in a society with many specialty fields that are better suited to deal with issues that we’ve deemed criminal when they are simply inconvenient or inconsequential. 

It is time for America to look at what we criminalize, who we criminalize and why. We need to make sure that this is corrected and addressed by any elected official from the White House to school boards. In all of these areas, behaviors that we’ve grown accustomed to suppressing, that aren’t indicative of anything dangerous or harmful, especially a “bad attitude,” need to be ignored. Just fucking move on. 

Address poverty, economic disparity. Protect the basic human needs and rights of citizens, and, while all crime won’t magically disappear, the improvement in the basic living situations of many citizens who are apt to fall into behaviors we perceive as criminal, would result in crime being reduced immensely. 

But I digress, we’re part of a nation that fails to learn simple lessons and shoots ourselves in the foot on a regular basis. Look at our response to something as simple as a vaccine. 

LMPD can’t be reformed. No police department can. We need a massive change but first the end of needless enforcement. We need public safety that protects people like Lea from officers like Hellard and Crawford. •