FRANKFORT, Ky. — For Sen. Gerald Neal (D-Louisville), the U.S. Department of Justice’s scathing report on the Louisville Metro government and the Louisville Metro Police Department — detailing excessive force, racial discrimination and other violations — was validation of a history of a lack of respect and abuse of authority.
“This has been understood as a reality as long as I’ve been on this earth and conscious,” said Neal. “What we have a tendency to lose in this situation is that there are a lot of good cops and that community needs cops and there needs to be a proper relationship between community and police.”
But that relationship can’t exist, said Neal, when officers act inappropriately.
He said the report is an opportunity to involve the community and make changes to training and processes.
“We have to think in positive terms towards the future,” said Neal. “The police department’s going to have to take steps to create accountability and one step at a time, one good gesture at a time, goodwill being a guide, professionalism being a guide, respect, decency.”
Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-Louisville) said he was not surprised by the findings.
“When the DOJ comes to town, there’s always going to be some hard-hitting reports,” he said. “We got what we thought we’d get. I’m very proud that the mayor of Louisville is actually saying we’re going to take these things head on and work with us in the state. I don’t agree with everything in that DOJ report at all, but they are the federal government and they have the court order and we must comply.”
The DOJ report said it also found LMPD has “deficient training, substandard facilities and equipment, and inadequate support for mental health and wellness.”
Bratcher is the sponsor of House Bill 207, which would codify that law enforcement agencies can create their own wellness programs for officers that could include an early intervention system to identify and address “potentially problematic behaviors.”
The conclusions and recommendations from the program are privileged, with some exceptions, according to the legislation.
The bill cleared a House committee with bipartisan support Wednesday.
A spokesperson for LMPD said the department is in the process of setting up a wellness unit for officers.