Metro Louisville

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is facing intense pressure from protesters and some public officials over Breonna Taylor’s death and its aftermath.

It’s been more than two months since protests for racial justice erupted in Louisville over the police shooting that killed Taylor in her home during a March raid.

The Metro Council is now investigating the mayor’s response into Taylor’s death as others call for his resignation. Fischer has made a number of changes since her death, but critics say key demands remain unfulfilled. Chief among them: Fire, arrest and prosecute the officers involved in Taylor’s death.

One officer, Brett Hankison, has been fired. Two others, Myles Cosgrove and Jonathan Mattingly, remain on paid leave. Fischer said his office did everything it could before handing the case over to Kentucky’s attorney general.

“We took the action that we could take based on the evidence we had in terminating Brett Hankison,” Fischer said in an interview with WFPL. “People are assuming that just because all of the officers are at the same scene, they did the same thing, so all of the actions we could take, we took them.”

Protesters argue that if Fischer was able to fire Hankison, he could have also fired the other officers.

Shameka Parrish-Wright of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression has been a presence at Jefferson Square Park since protest began. She says at a minimum, getting rid of the officers would honor the demands of Taylor’s family.

“But at least fire them, we know what our mayor can do even now as he says it’s in the attorney general’s hands. He can still fire them right now,” Parrish-Wright said.

Use Of Force

Protesters say seeking justice for Taylor and her family is just one step toward confronting the larger problem of police violence against Black and brown communities. That’s why Reece Chenault with Black Lives Matter Louisville is demanding the mayor address LMPD’s use of force policies.

“Here’s the thing, the state always has the monopoly on violence. They are always the first to draw on us, they are always the first to shoot at us and we people, regular people, are always the first people to die in every single one of these conflicts,” Chenault said.

Chenault said authorities continue to use excessive force in the wake of Taylor’s death, citing the death of David McAtee and the use of tear gas on peaceful protesters, among other instances.

Last week, the ACLU of Kentucky, the NAACP and others filed a lawsuit against LMPD alleging excessive use of force against protesters. The plaintiffs argue the city used military-style weapons to silence non-violent demonstrators.

To address LMPD’s use of force, Fischer has hired a consulting firm to conduct an audit of the department. The review will analyze the department’s training, operations, public interactions, racial and implicit biases and other practices.

LMPD now requires officers to intervene when their colleagues use excessive force. And in the aftermath of the first weeks of protests, LMPD revised its policy on when to use tear gas.

Fischer also signed Breonna’s Law, which bans no-knock warrants and requires officers to wear body cameras when they are conducting warrant operations. He’s also established a work group to create an independent civilian board with subpoena power to review police investigations.

“Within LMPD, [police] improved the use of force policy, the duty to intervene policy, much of that work that you’re seeing being done around the country, we’ve already done that as well, but anytime we’ve had an opportunity to make an improvement, we’ve stepped in there and done that,” he said.

Systemic Racism

The broader demands of protesters involve dismantling systemic inequality, especially in policing. Many protesters would like to see less of the city budget invested in police and more invested in disadvantaged communities.

But this year, the budget the mayor signed slightly increased funding for police.

Fischer agrees the city hasn’t invested enough in social and mental health services and instead has thrust that burden onto police. He said he wants to change that.

“That clearly is not working, not just here in Louisville, but all over America as well, so we have got to figure out a new model for how that works together, a more holistic model,” Fischer said.

Fischer intends to create a plan to re-imagine policing ahead of the next city budget, he said. At the national level, as the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, Fischer pushed a resolution to study and develop a proposal to offer reparations for slavery. Reparations are seen as a means of addressing economic injustices.

But again, the mayor’s critics question why he’s only addressing these issues now in his third term in office. State Rep. Attica Scott believes the mayor should resign.

“When I was on Metro Council he adamantly opposed raising the minimum wage. Now all of a sudden you want to do something about the wealth gap? Give me a break,” she said. “You want to claim that you’ve done something about police violence? Give me a break.  You want to claim you’ve done something about police violence? How many times did we have to get hit with tear gas, with pepper balls, did David McAtee have to die before you did anything?”

For all of their disagreement, there is some common ground. Both sides agree there needs to be transparency and accountability in the investigations into Taylor’s death. But in that regard, neither side has control. Those decisions now rest with the Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.