Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has announced new leadership for the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN) during a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Monique Williams will join OSHN as its new director, coming from the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, where she directs the Youth Violence Prevention Research Center. Retired Louisville Metro Police officer and a founding pastor of Spirit Filled New Life Church Ministries, Bishop Steven Kelsey, will be the office’s new faith-based liaison.
OSHN was established in 2013 in response to a triple homicide the preceding year.
Fischer said the work of OSHN is more critical than ever as the Metro “contend[s] with multiple crises unfolding in our city and across the country”: the global pandemic, economic hardships and calls for racial equity and justice for Black people killed by police.
“We also have to address the horrifying increase in homicides that we’re seeing in our city… We have to take action to prevent more senseless deaths… We cannot arrest our way to a solution,” he said. “We have to find ways to reverse these trends, and we need dedicated and visionary leaders to do that.”
Williams said she wants to explore new and “more holistic” approaches to preventing violence in Louisville’s communities, and that starts by zooming out from the individual.
“We get a clearer picture when we consider the connections between the individual and their health, their socioeconomic status, their education… and we get an even clearer picture when we consider the connections between the individual and things like racism, housing segregation, redlining, created concentrated poverty and violence,” she said. “Understanding how patterns of violence are connected to social systems and social customs is really key to the equation of violence prevention.”
Kelsey said his lived experience, as “an African-American male, as a pastor, as a retired police officer,” will give him a unique perspective in this role.
“What I envision is bringing all the pastors together, sitting down with those who got boots on the ground… and let’s have a real form,” he said. “We cannot just have a treatment plan and say this is your treatment. But in order for this to be effective, the government has to work with the people and the people have to work with the government.”
The Metro has seen a rise in gun violence in 2020.