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Earlier this month, a Courier Journal story that included video of Tae-Ahn Lea, a black teenager, being pulled over, handcuffed and frisked in Louisville’s West End, sparked outrage over Louisville Metro Police vehicle stops. It has also spurred some Louisville Metro Council members and residents to ask: are such traffic stops effective for addressing crime, or are they tools for racial profiling?
Guests discussed that and other related topics Friday during WFPL’s In Conversation with Rick Howlett. Our guests were:
- Jessica Green, 1st District Metro Councilwoman
- Nicolai Jilek, President of the River City Fraternal Order of Police
- Keturah Herron, ACLU of Kentucky Field Organizer for Juvenile Justice
Jessica Green, who represents neighborhoods including Parkland and Park Duvalle, said people in west Louisville feel they are pulled over for pretext stops more often than people in other neighborhoods. To improve their relationship with the community, Green said officers should be re-trained on how to interact with people.
“For good or for bad, what is running through a lot of black men’s head is, ‘Am I going to get shot by this police officer?’” Green said. “We are not trying to provide a haven for drug traffickers or for violent offenders, but what we do expect is equal application of the law.”
Nicolai Jilek, President of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, said traffic stops can often become dangerous situations for police. That is why some officers handcuff people in traffic to ensure the safety of both the person who was stopped and others. He said residents’ perception of being hunted down by police is concerning and should be addressed.
“I want people to feel safe, I don’t want people to feel like they are hunted down,” Jilek said. “We have extremely high rate of violent crime in certain areas, so how do you deal with that? The police department sees it as its duty to devote extra resources where there is extra crime.”
“Historically the black community, not just here in Louisville but nationwide, has been hit with tragedy of people being murdered by police — by people who are supposed to protect and serve them,” Herron said. “Until we start divesting in the police department and investing in communities, making sure communities have their basic needs met, then I think that we’re going to continue to have this situation.”
Join us next week on WFPL’s In Conversation as we discuss your favorite Kentucky Derby memories. Call and record your Derby memories at 502-814-6560, and we may use them in the show.