Metro Louisville

Ahead of a vote to codify use of force policy, dozens of protesters participated in a long march across the city, continuing their call for police accountability. Since protests began in May, protesters have sought justice for Breonna Taylor. They also want systemic changes — changes to law and policy.

Metro Council responded to those calls in a split vote Thursday night, passing an ordinance codifying Louisville Metro Police Department policies. Fifteen council members voted for the measure, and 10 against.

During the protest, protest organizer Shameka Parrish-Wright said giving use of force policies the weight of law will help hold officers accountable.  

“We know that we do need that ordinance. We know that we do need those laws. Because they don’t listen to the police chief. They don’t,” she said. “They have too many rogue officers who are doing what they want to do. So we need laws behind our fist in the air.”

But opponents of the ordinance said making the policy law is an overstep. Interim LMPD chief Yvette Gentry has pushed back on the proposal, saying it could impinge on a chief’s power to make policy adjustments.

Mark Fox (D-13), a former police major, voted against the measure. During Thursday’s council meeting, he said police policy is a living document. 

“It must be allowed the flexibility to change quickly as technology changes, the operational environment changes and citizens’ demands and expectations change,” Fox said. “This must be left in the hands of a capable professional police chief.”

But some council members expressed concerns that LMPD’s use of force policy could change under a different, future chief. Under the ordinance, certain limitations must be included in the department’s policies. They are:

  • Limiting choking techniques to only those situations when deadly force would be allowed
  • Requiring police officers to turn to de-escalation techniques “when reasonable” to avoid the use of force
  • Requiring police officers to give clear, audible verbal warnings before using deadly force “if feasible”
  • Exhausting alternative uses of force before using guns
  • Requiring police officers to prevent or stop colleagues from using excessive force
  • Prohibiting officers from shooting at or from a moving vehicle, unless there is a risk of deadly force against an officer or other person
  • Using the lowest possible level of force to gain control of a subject
  • Reporting of every use of physical force and every instance of pointing a gun at another person

Nicole George (D-21) said the ordinance was a response to public outcry.

“Laws reflect values. Our ability to listen to our community is really important in this moment,” she said. “It is not my intention to micromanage policy through legislation. I don’t presume to know more than those in LMPD practicing law enforcement. But I do understand community need.”

Back at Jefferson Square Park, State Representative Attica Scott was talking with her fellow protesters. Scott is the sponsor of Breonna’s Law, a bill to ban no-knock warrants statewide. Metro Council passed its version of Breonna’s Law unanimously in June. Scott said the point of the protests is to create tangible change — and it’s working.

“Our protests are all about turning that protest into advocacy for public policy, like Breonna’s Law for Kentucky, and it’s also about turning people into politicians,” she said.

Scott, the state’s only Black woman representative, said she knows several young people who have been inspired to run for office after participating in protests. 

In addition to Breonna’s Law and Metro Council’s use of force ordinance, other changes are in the works. Mayor Greg Fischer said he plans to select a permanent police chief by the end of the year. And LMPD is undergoing an independent review. Meanwhile, Democratic state lawmakers say they are drafting bills to give more power to civilian review boards.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.
Jess Clark is WFPL's Education and Learning Reporter.