LOUISVILLE, Ky. — After Breonna Taylor’s death in March, many called for change, and Louisville Metro Council President David James (D, District 6) said the council is actively working on it.
They banned no-knock warrants earlier this summer, and they’re planning a civilian oversight board.
James said the council needs help from some state lawmakers though.
“For example, if a person is under charges from the government, a police officer, then the elected officials, public officials of that government are not allowed to speak to anyone publicly about that,” James said. “That is a limiting factor when you’re trying to explain what’s going on to citizens that don’t understand what’s going on when I’m not allowed to talk about it or the mayor’s not allowed to talk about it.”
James said the city is also considering a citizen review board for the police department and hopes to have a proposal to vote on within the next month. For the bill to truly have teeth, James said it needs subpoena power, something only the General Assembly can authorize.
Louisville’s police contract is up in December, and James said some of the changes being sought in a new contract could require other changes in state law. James said he hopes the council will vote on a short-term extension so state lawmakers can make necessary changes.
“The state legislature is our primary problem we have with changing the contract,” James said. “If we can get those changes taken place at the state legislature level, then we can negotiate the changes into the local contract.”
House Minority Leader Joni Jenkins (D-District 44) says lawmakers are working on several reforms, including how much information can be shared about investigations.
“I think current events have brought to light, perhaps some areas that we need to be looking at, and certainly we want to make sure that anyone in law enforcement has due process and at the same time hold folks accountable,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins said lawmakers will consider several bills when they return to Frankfort, emphasizing that negotiation will change how some current proposals look.
“I’ve been doing this for quite a while and I know that when a bill is filed, it is a starting point,” Jenkins said. “And certainly all of the interests are invited to the table to weigh in on what happens, and sometimes the end result can look very different from the bill as it’s filed.”
Lawmakers have talked about a special session on police reform, but Jenkins said she doesn’t see it happening because we’re so close to the election and the next regular session.
“I don’t see an emergency at this point,” Jenkins said. “Many of the reforms that we’re talking about have already been passed by ordinance in the city of Louisville.”
The next legislative session starts in January.