The new police chief should be...No one!

Jun 17, 2020 at 9:39 am
Father’s Day

Louisville doesn’t need a new police chief.

Mayor Greg Fischer is surveying the community on what characteristics and goals we would like to see the next police chief embody. 

Focusing on whom to hire to be the next police chief is a fundamental misreading of the moment and movement. It’s also insulting.

Hiring another chief would result in only more policy and procedure changes and not actually deliver change: Black people would still be harassed, abused and killed by the “bad apple” cop.

Louisville does not need a new police chief — it needs a chief of health and safety, or a chief of peacekeeping and peacemaking.

Asking for public feedback is fine — community engagement is never bad. But, in this instance, surveying the public is a cynical, calculated effort to appease an outraged citizenry. It feels a lot like all of the other talk strategies the city and police have used in the past, which never fixed the fractured relationship between Black communities and police.

This outreach ends up giving politicians time. It can divert some of the protesters’ energy. It conveys empathy, care and compassion — but not change. 

Plus, the community needs no official invitation to provide input. Protesters have been making their demands known for weeks, and they’re not focusing on the need for a new police chief. 

They’re focusing on the police. Want to change the result? Change the police.

As Mariame Kaba, director of Project NIA, wrote in a New York Times op-ed this past weekend, “We can’t simply change their job descriptions to focus on the worst of the worst criminals. That’s not what they are set up to do.”

What Fischer is proposing as reform, in addition to changing out the chief, has been done before with no success, obviously.

He has called for an external top-to-bottom review of LMPD, with a focus on training, bias-free policing, use of force, supervision, accountability and community engagement (… again with the community engagement). The city earlier announced the city would be reconstructing a civilian review board on police accountability, which would include subpoena power.

I cannot overstate this — it’s all been done before. Firing the police chief, also, has been done before.

For the city to return to the same failed processes, which promises the same failed result, is a failure of imagination and leadership.

We know how this ends, because we’ve been here and done this before.

As Kaba wrote, “When the streets calm and people suggest once again that we hire more black police officers or create more civilian review boards, I hope that we remember all the times those efforts have failed.”

Louisville doesn’t need a public survey to be heard. We don’t need an accountability board, better training or community engagement, and we definitely don’t need a new police chief.

As long as police are allowed if not encouraged to rule by force and violence with one-sided, qualified immunity from the law, nothing will change.

They must understand they are there to… ugh… serve and protect.

We need to reimagine police.