It seems like a simple question: does the Kentucky State Police have a formal agreement to investigate police shootings on behalf of the Louisville Metro Police Department?
And yet, days after KSP began investigating one of those shootings, the city and the state are still offering different answers. In competing statements sent Tuesday night, each agency doled out different details, which, taken together, paint a picture of a confusing, hectic implementation of this change that was first announced four months ago.
On Sunday night, an LMPD officer shot and killed 49-year-old Brian Allen Thurman during a traffic stop. Interim Police Chief Yvette Gentry said that this case would be the first under the city’s new protocol that has KSP investigate police shootings on behalf of the city. She confirmed that KSP was on the scene that night.
And little information has been released since then — contrary to LMPD’s practice of sharing details, the names of officers involved and body camera footage within 24 hours.
On Tuesday morning, Mayor Greg Fischer told reporters that the city and the state signed an agreement about a month ago to turn these investigations over to KSP.
But later that day, KSP Sgt. Billy Gregory said in an email that LMPD and KSP did not have an agreement yet. He said they had exchanged draft agreements but Sunday’s shooting occurred “prior to a finalized agreement.”
Gregory said once the agreement is signed, KSP would release it publicly.
Then, a spokesperson for Fischer came with receipts: Jean Porter provided a copy of a signed agreement, dated about a month ago, as Fischer said.
But there was a big caveat: she said the agreement was later revoked by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, “pending changes.”
Neither Porter, Gregory or a spokesperson for the cabinet responded to a question asking what those changes would be.
This back-and-forth is nothing new when it comes to the implementation of this reform. Fischer announced in July, after intense criticism over LMPD officers fatally shooting Breonna Taylor and LMPD’s involvement in the fatal National Guardsmen shooting of David McAtee, that KSP would be taking over LMPD police shooting investigations. As of August, KSP told the Courier-Journal they hadn’t been asked to do so. As recently as Friday, the state police told KyCIR only that they were in discussions with the city.
Then, Sunday night — the first LMPD shooting since the change was announced — they were on the scene, leading the investigation.
Samuel Walker, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said it’s essential to have a written agreement in place before handing this sort of investigative authority to another agency.
Louisville is seeing why right now: it’s LMPD practice to release the name of the officer and any body camera footage within 24 hours of a police shooting, as a show of transparency. It’s been two and a half days since Thurman was shot and nothing has been shared publicly since the interim police chief confirmed the fatal shooting in a two-minute briefing early Monday.
Under the since-revoked agreement, LMPD could have gone ahead and released the body camera footage and the officer’s name.
Fischer said Tuesday that KSP had originally agreed to release the footage within 24 hours, “but then they said we are not going to be able to do that, given logistical challenges.”
“It’s important that this body camera evidence is seen by the community so that they can understand what took place in any given tragedy such as this,” Fischer said.
In his statement, Gregory specified that KSP policy typically allows for them to release body camera footage within 72 hours. It is expected to be released Wednesday night.