In a wide-ranging news conference covering issues that have arisen in the days since racial justice protests began in Louisville, Mayor Greg Fischer said on Wednesday the city will seek input from residents on reforms to the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Interim LMPD Chief Robert Schroeder apologized for the use of tear gas against peaceful protesters.
Fischer’s chief priorities in addressing police reforms, “rebuilding trust” and “legitimacy,” are searching for a new police chief and conducting a comprehensive review of the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Fischer said the city will create a community survey for residents to prioritize what they would like to see in a new police chief. At the same time, Fischer said he will also be giving a similar survey to LMPD to see what officers would like in a new police chief.
“We want all of our citizens to be engaged in the process because it’s going to take all of us to get this right,” Fischer said. “I want the whole community to feel like, ‘OK this is our new police chief.’”
The survey will be up for at least three weeks. Fischer said the city is also going to hold listening sessions and setup a phone line for people who do not have access to the internet.
Fischer, who has often called for increasing the city’s police budget, discouraged calls to defund the police. instead he said funds should be found elsewhere to solve the city’s social crises including affordable housing, mental health and drug addiction.
“I don’t believe the community of Louisville wants to defund the police. That’s not our plan to do that either,” Fischer said Quintez Brown, 19, a Black Lives Matter youth organizer who has been calling for defunding police in Louisville, said the mayor’s language devalues the demands of protesters and further demonstrates that Fischer isn’t listening to the community.
“I know what he means by that, he means that it’s not what the white community of Louisville wants,” Brown said. “He wants to try to control the narrative and by doing so, erasing the demands of protesters and erasing the demands of black and brown youth.”
Schroeder announced a revision in the city’s use of teargas following LMPD’s use of chemical irritants on peaceful protesters. Going forward, Schroeder said the order to fire teargas must come from him, or an official he designates.
Schroeder said that tear gas was only used as a “last resort” to clear protesters who presented a threat to safety. WFPL News reporters witnessed numerous instances when police appeared to fire chemical irritants at non-violent protesters without apparent provocation.
He also said that several protesters brought in “weapons and other items” with intent to cause harm, but he did not define what those weapons were. Previously, LMPD has said officers used crowd control weapons against protesters because they were said to be carrying leaf blowers and umbrellas.
“I know several peaceful protesters got caught up in situations where tear gas had to be used and I regret that those people had to experience that,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder also announced that he has placed on administrative re-assignment the officer who applied for the no-knock warrant resulting in the death of Breonna Taylor. He has also referred the case to the FBI.
“Questions have been raised by the Taylor family, their attorneys, the postal inspectors and others about how and why the search warrant was approved,” Schroeder said. “As a result of those questions, I have placed detective Joshua Jaynes, who applied for the warrant, on administrative reassignment, until those questions can be answered.”