Louisville, At The Very Least

Mar 15, 2023 at 11:54 am
Despite calls for transparency, the Fraternal Order of Police and Louisville city officials have agreed to closed negotiations on a new police contract.
Despite calls for transparency, the Fraternal Order of Police and Louisville city officials have agreed to closed negotiations on a new police contract. adobe

Editor’s Note

What a wild couple of weeks in Louisville. The Department of Justice’s report delivered a scathing assessment of the Louisville Metro Police Department. Now we await the consent decree to be negotiated.

Activists, like LEO’s occasional columnist Hannah Drake, have taken to social media to reiterate the fact that Black people in Louisville have been saying for many years that Louisville’s police are corrupt and abusive, as you’ll read in the DOJ news story in this issue from our news writer Josh Wood. 

The DOJ report only codified these truths into an investigation document. The issues with LMPD are long-standing and for sure, have many of their roots in the fact that Louisville has a long history of officers in the KKK. 

Nearly every Black person from Louisville can tell you a story about a less than savory interaction with a Louisville police officer. 

When I was a young woman, in the mid-nineties — my very early 20s — I was leaving the home of my best friend and driving along Frankfort Ave. toward my east end apartment. I had an expired tag that I’d already made arrangements to address. I knew this, so when a police officer pulled me over at 1:30 a.m., I expected it to be a simple interaction, maybe a citation that suggested that I get the plate renewal. 

Instead, a white male cop probably in his 40s, ran hand along the edge of my Buick. Because my car was old, I had to open the door slightly because the window no longer rolled down. The officer seemed out of sorts, not because my door opened but genuinely not right. He was very aggressive and jumpy.  

He asked where I was going this late at night and I told him, “home.” Then he asked, “Where did you come from?”  

He slid himself between the door and my open car. 

“A friend’s house.”

That didn’t seem to satisfy him and he continued to press for information, while looking in my car with a flashlight. It felt intrusive. I was alone, very late at night and the way the cop was acting made me nervous. 

After the officer requested my license and other information, he walked away to his car. I called my friend. It was in the early years of cell phones so I was incredibly lucky to have one and be able to call my friend who also had a phone. 

I told him to stay on the line with me because a cop had pulled me over and was being weird and aggressive. So we made small talk just enough so that he could hear the conversation with the officer. 

As I watched the officer walk back to my car, I felt that he was about to escalate the situation. He gave my license and papers back with a citation but continued to press for information while again putting his physical body between my door and my open car. When he noticed the phone, he jumped back. Physically jumped back. When I saw this, I knew that he hadn’t expected the potential for there to be a witness to whatever he was planning. 

I immediately asked, in not such a nice way, if he needed anything else or if I was free to go. His voice stammered, he suddenly had little to say. When he finally settled on “no.”

I reached around his body and grabbed the handle of my door, and began to shut it. He was still within the edge of the door and I almost hit him. He hopped back. I continued to talk with my friend on the phone for a while as I pulled away, watching the cop standing in the street, stunned. 

I don’t know if or what the cops intentions were that night, but my instinct and the aggressiveness of his demeanor and questioning made me think that being a small woman out at 1:30 a.m. with not a lot of traffic around had put me in a dangerous situation with this officer, and his intentions were not going to be kind and maybe not even legal. 

So I got away, but many many Black people did not and do not. 

The DOJ report just affirms what we already knew, and hopefully lets white Louisvillians know that these officers are not playing on an equal field and that Black citizens are bearing the brunt of local police aggression and adverse behaviors. Whether white Louisville believes it or not, the facts are documented and some remedy is due. 

Going forward, the best thing that the city could do, in light of this “new” knowledge, is open any and all negotiations with the FOP police union, and move swiftly on investigations into misconduct when they arise with an empowered Civilian Review and Accountability Board and Inspector General’s office. 

It’s not a big ask but it is the least Louisville could do. The actual very least.