Newly Proposed Police Union Contract For Louisville Contains Big Raises And Some Reforms

Sep 3, 2021 at 4:22 pm
A police line during the 2020 Louisville protests.  |  Photo by Kathryn Harrington
A police line during the 2020 Louisville protests. | Photo by Kathryn Harrington

Louisville’s police union, River City FOP, and the mayor’s office have released a newly negotiated contract, and it contains major raises for officers and reforms that an advocate says are a step in the right direction but still not enough. 

First, let's discuss the raises, which are the highest single-year increase in LMPD history: Officers will receive 9% raises this fiscal year and 3% raises in fiscal year 2023. Lieutenants will be given a 8.21% raise for last fiscal year. 

The reforms, which still must be approved by FOP members and Metro Council, include:

  • Officers would seemingly no longer be allowed to review body and vehicle camera footage of incidents they were involved in prior to making statements or reports regarding the incident.
  • Complaints about officers that don't result in an investigation will no longer be destroyed after 90 days. Instead, they will stick around for at least two years, in accordance with the city’s document retention policy.
  • If officers are involved in a “critical incident,” they would be required to submit to drug and alcohol tests.
  • Special Investigations Division officers would undergo extra training.
  • The police would recognize the new Civilian Review and Accountability Board and the Office of the Inspector General.
  • While officers are on duty, Metro Government could activate officers’ body and vehicle cameras for live viewing if they received permission from a division commander.
  • It might be harder for officers to receive some militarized equipment. The contract says it will provide personal protection equipment, or PPE, to officers if it’s necessary for them to perform their duties. Previously, the contract said PPE kits and items like OC and pepper ball canisters would be made available in all divisions and property rooms without any provision regarding who the equipment would be available to and when. The proposed contract says that the Metro budget office, LMPD and the FOP will meet quarterly to add or delete “equipment or gear necessary for the performance of a Member’s job duty.”
If the contract is approved, officers would also be eligible to receive a $5,000 down payment on a home if they choose to buy property in specific low income areas of the city. This was a reform included in the city’s $12 million settlement with Breonna Taylor’s family. They’d also be encouraged to volunteer for two hours every pay period while one duty.

About the reforms, Ariana Levinson, a UofL law professor working with the 490 Project, a citizen group advocating for FOP contract reform said, “I think they’re a step in the right direction. I think that some of the changes have not gone far enough.”

The public’s campaign to change the contract picked up in the wake of Breonna Taylor’s death, which revealed holes in how the Louisville Metro Police Department handles investigations into potential officer misconduct. 

Levinson wrote a column that published in LEO in May, suggesting six contract reforms. Four, covering militarized equipment, complaints and body and car camera footage, are at least partially addressed by the proposed contract. But, some parts of the contract she wanted to see reformed were not, including a section saying no police officers should be laid off while the contract is in effect and another portion that gives the police department the ability to handle complaints against officers in an informal manner. 

The reforms still have to be approved by FOP members. Then, they will be sent to the Metro Council for review.

Levinson said there are some parts of the contract where the language is confusing, and she hopes the Council asks about the intent of those sections.For example, one part of the contract revises the requirements that the government must meet for it to suspend officers without pay. Like in the previous contract, it would still require the offense to fall under “extraordinary circumstances,” such as sexual abuse of a child or a felony. But, the old contract required all of the “extraordinary circumstances” to be met, whereas under the new one, it seems an officer’s offense would only have to fall under one category to result in suspension without pay. But, Levinson said, there are bits of language still in the contract that could negate this. 

Both the FOP and Mayor Greg Fischer have released statements on the contract, mostly focusing on the pay increases it gives officers. 

Fischer said, “From the outset, my team committed to ensuring that we have a pay scale that allows us to recruit and retain the most talented people possible, while also making reforms to further trust between the police and the community they serve. My hope is that the men and women of LMPD see this as an investment in them, that those considering law enforcement see it as an invitation to a fulfilling career, and that our residents see it as evidence of our commitment to bring major reformative changes to address accountability and community trust.”

The FOP said, “Our FOP contract committee worked relentlessly, during these negotiations to help ensure the LMPD is a department that is able to recruit the most qualified candidates and retain our outstanding officers. We feel this tentative agreement could be another step in that process.”

Levinson is encouraging citizens to voice their opinions on the proposed contract at council meetings. 

“If you really want to deal with patterns and practices of heavier policing of minority communities and of excessive force, then the public has to be relentless in voicing their opinion to the council,” she said.

You can read the proposed contract in full here.

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