Metro Louisville

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer says city leaders across the country need to encourage police to de-escalate during protests, work with protest leaders and be patient amid drawn-out demonstrations.

Fischer made the comments during a virtual panel hosted by the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a national organization he leads as president. The remarks come nearly a year after the first protests sparked by the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Protesters have consistently criticized Fischer for the aggressive police crackdown on demonstrations and accused him of not doing enough to rectify the troubled police department.

But during the panel, Fischer talked about the importance of police trying to defuse intense situations.

“Making sure your police department really understands the importance of de-escalation, what police officers are wearing, what police material and assets should not be seen, how you address people,” Fischer said.

“De-escalation should be in every interaction that you possibly can. Because a successful night should be when everybody goes home bored.”

First elected in 2010, Fischer’s third and final term as mayor will end next year.

An audit released earlier this year found the city’s police force in “crisis,” documenting a deeply strained relationship with the Black community, disproportionate arrests of Black people, minimal review of search warrants, and low morale among officers.

Since then, the U.S. Department of Justice has launched an investigation into the city and police department to determine whether there is a pattern of using excessive force and violating citizens’ constitutional rights.

Despite the stark background, Fischer counseled the panel about listening to protesters and protecting First Amendment rights.

“People are in the streets because they’re sick and tired of being sick and tired about racial injustice. There might be a specific incident that sparks it, but don’t get lost in that specific incident versus the bigger picture about what protest is all about,” Fischer said.

Mike McBride, a prominent pastor from Berkley, California, provided a different perspective on how cities should handle protests—saying leaders should take a look at who serves on police forces.

“I would scrub my police department of any officers who have a relationship, both social or personal, with any white supremacist group, any alt-right member, anyone who has that paraphernalia in their locker rooms, on their body. I would make sure those officers are on the desk for the whole summer,” McBride said.

“I would make it uncomfortable for them to be in my department.”

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.