If the budget is a vision for Louisville, then what Mayor Greg Fischer proposed and the Metro Council approved last week shows they are blind, and they think we are too. It is a reminder for Louisville: Watch what Fischer and the council do because you cannot necessarily believe what they say.
Like when Fischer talks up his Compassionate City booster pap, but he also allows an incompetent police chief to continue to brutalize and harass Black citizens. Like when his inaction, complicity or both led the police to kill Breonna Taylor.
Like when the cops or cop who shot her kept their jobs as an investigation into questions including possibly why they were at her apartment in the first place crawls along months later, still not completed.
Like when he allowed the National Guard with loaded guns to patrol The West End to enforce curfew. That bad decision ended in the death of David McAtee.
Or, when the police finally released an incident report for Breonna Taylors death, and it contained almost no information but misspelled her middle name and said she had not suffered injuries. And then, when people Black and white took over downtown to protest peacefully against police violence, they were met with more police violence.
Just this past weekend, when the protesters continued their peaceful occupation of Jefferson Square Park, a public space, the city cleared it out and said workers would pack up the tents in the park and ensure all the belongings are secured so they can be returned to their owners. Instead, they were tossed into dumpsters and sent to the city solid waste center where people could search for their car and house keys, cameras, clothing and other valuables. Fischer apologized and offered to pay for the losses, but who wants to give the city their name and address?
Would you trust them to not use that information against you?
Perhaps most telling is how the city has handled the 2020-21 budget, you, know their vision for the city. The Louisville Urban League and some 50 community groups sent Fischer and the council a letter detailing the changes they want, starting with the police department.
The actions of LMPD clearly demonstrated that we cannot trust them to protect and serve all of us regardless of where we live or the color of our skin. Its difficult to imagine a more serious breach of trust than when police unnecessarily kill the people they are charged to protect, they wrote. The police department, the justice department and our elected officials have repeatedly failed those whom they have pledged to serve. While 400 years overdue, there is an opportunity to change right now.
It is time for Louisville to begin investing in qualified first responders and reducing police presence and influence in our personal lives, community affairs, and city/organizational budgets, they wrote. To that end, and in addition to a complete overhaul of LMPDs organizational structure, protocols, and practices, we are demanding an immediate reduction and reallocation of LMPDs current budget and a move toward divestment in police and investment in the appropriate first responders. Nurses, psychologists, and social workers are better equipped than police to handle belligerent patients, homeless people, and those with mental illness. They do it every day. And they do it without lethal force.
Even a councilman, albeit one not seeking re-election, put forth a plan to defund the police. Brandon Coan called for cutting the police budget by 15%, about $27 million, over the next three years. Some of that money would go to hire community health and social workers to help respond to calls for service, and the rest would be spent to help lift up the Black community instead of locking it down and up.
What did the Urban League and the some 50 groups and even Coan get? A big FU.
Instead of cutting or redistributing money, the police got even more $750,200. The $190 million police budget still is about a third of the entire operating budget. In its press release, the council listed just three items for Law Enforcement Reform:
$763,500 for a civilian oversight system. As LEO staff writer Danielle Grady found, community activists doubt the group will be civilian enough to judge the police with any rigor or honesty.
$1.2 million in state LMPD money for exploration and implementation in deflection along with co-responder approaches which place behavioral health specialists with police to offer case management connections to treatment, housing, and services.
Whatever the fuck that means. Who writes this stuff? We think it means pairing social and mental health workers with police a good thing, but just $1.2 million?
And $1.6 million in federal funds to make a police force which [sic] more closely looks like and lives in the community; and training, including use of force, de-escalation, and implicit bias.
That means more Black officers and teaching officers to not be racist and to not reach for the gun as a first impulse.
Again, not enough. If the budget is our city leaders vision for Louisville, then they are blind to what is happening on the streets. We are not.