Louisville has selected a finalist for its inspector general, who will lead the city’s 11-member Civilian Review and Accountability Board focused on police misconduct.
Edward Harness, the current head of the Albuquerque, N.M., Civilian Police Oversight Agency, was chosen for the role following a national search that generated dozens of candidates. Harness’ appointment requires Metro Council approval. Louisville officials created the new civilian review board and inspector general position last year, following the killing of Breonna Taylor by police and months of racial justice protests.
Mayor Greg Fischer announced the pick at a meeting of the civilian review board Tuesday afternoon. Fischer said Harness has a unique combination of skills that will allow him to work with police officers and the community to ensure transparency and accountability.
“In business terms, this is a startup for us here,” Fischer said. “For us to be able to find someone who had the experience building an agency somewhere else, seeing the ins and outs of that, and bringing that experience here, we thought would be very valuable.”
In addition to leading police oversight in Albuquerque, Harness is a lawyer and former police officer. He was an officer with the Milwaukee Police Department from 1991-1997 before graduating from Marquette University Law School in 2000, according to his LinkedIn page.
Louisville’s new inspector general will answer to the civilian review board, which is tasked with investigating complaints against police officers. It will also have the authority to review use-of-force reports and previous internal investigations into police killings.
The inspector general will be responsible for organizing the board, creating its policies and hiring and training staff. Harness told civilian review board members one of his first actions would be to hire an administrator that can navigate city processes and deal with the paperwork the board will have to review.
The civilian review board’s $763,000 budget should be enough to hire five to eight employees, according to Fischer.
Harness said he’ll be a staunch advocate for police oversight.
“My experience here in Albuquerque shows me that I need to ensure that I am out speaking with and listening to members of the community and hearing what their concerns are,” he said. “In the same vein, I will be asking and listening to the same questions from the police department.”
A three-member search committee made up of Metro Council Member Paula McCraney, Civilian Review and Accountability Board Vice-Chair Kellie Watson and Chief of Public Services Matt Golden selected Harness for the inspector general position.
McCraney told WFPL News she thinks Harness’ history in law enforcement and commitment to accountability will help him bridge the divide between officers and members of the community who have lost trust in the police.
“I think we have created something that’s going to work for the [police union], it’s going to work for the police department and it’s going to work for the community,” she said. “That’s the way it was designed, and I think everybody should have an open mind and feel comfortable that we’ve chosen someone with the skills that are unique to this position.”
Metro Council’s Government Oversight and Accountability Committee is expected to take up his appointment in early November.