LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Reducing crime. More transparency. Rebuilding trust in the community.
This is what the Louisville community wants most from the city's next police chief, according to a survey of more than 1,200 citizens from April 27 to May 15.
The nine-question survey asked about the qualifications, priorities and most important leadership qualities residents would like to see in a new police chief.
Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel is serving as interim chief. Former Chief Erika Shields resigned when Mayor Craig Greenberg took office in January. There's no word on when Greenberg will pick a new chief.
The survey results, released Friday, showed the most important qualification wanted in a new chief — according to more than 70% of those who participated — is a track record of reducing crime and promoting community safety.
Transparency and openness finished second in that initial question, with nearly 60% of the respondents picking it. (Participants could choose up to five desired qualifications.)
Recruiting and retaining qualified officers and a track record of building community trusts were the next most important qualifications, according to the survey results.
Asked to choose the five highest priorities for a new chief, once again crime reduction led the way, followed by curbing gun violence, holding officers accountable, building trust in the community and officer health and wellness.
As for leadership qualities, the majority of those surveyed chose honesty, integrity and character as most important, followed by holding employees accountable, fairness and transparency.
The answers in the survey won't come as a shock to anyone who read the March findings of a wide-ranging civil rights review in Louisville that began in the wake of the 2020 police killing of Breonna Taylor.
"Another common response was that the culture of LMPD needs to change. Several respondents cited the recent report from the United States Department of Justice as evidence of the drastic need for change," according to the survey. "Other respondents said the report validated what they had long believed about racist officers being allowed to remain employed."
The report found the police department and Metro government for years engaged in practices that violated the U.S. Constitution and federal law, including excessive use of force and searches based on invalid search warrants.
In addition, during much of that time the DOJ studied, violent crime and homicide numbers soared to record levels.
And Louisville has spent more than $40 million since 2017 to settle dozens of lawsuits accusing the city's police department of complaints ranging from wrongful arrests to drivers who were stopped and searched illegally.
That amount dwarfs what neighboring states and other larger cities have paid for police mistakes in recent years, a WDRB News investigation found.
"Holding officers accountable was a frequent comment which tied into comments about building trust with the community," according to a note in the survey. "Others commented that holding officers accountable could only be done by a chief who would not be overly influenced by the Police Union."
When releasing the DOJ report, Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke said the police department "discriminated against Black people through unjustified stops, searches and arrests."
Still, most of the people surveyed – almost 75% – were white. About 15% were Black.
Census data from 2020 shows whites make up about 67% of the population compared to about 24% Black people in Louisville.
Diversity and expanding on racism and implicit bias training ranked low among the concerns of survey participants.
A little more than 49% of the respondents were male while about 47.5% were female, with the rest non-binary, according to the survey.
The age of respondents skewed older, with the largest group being more than 65 years old and only 4% being from people 24 and younger.
When she was named to the interim post in January, Gwinn-Villaroel said her main goals were to lower violent crime in the city, build a better relationship with the department and community and continue implementing reforms started in the wake of the Taylor shooting.
"My goal is to dismantle the walls of distrust that has taken over this city," she said. "There has been some problems as we all know that have taken place in the city. ... We have to rebuild those relationships."
Asked if she would be a candidate for permanent chief, she said "if it is the right fit."
Greenberg echoed that sentiment, saying she would be considered.
Besides the survey, the search process has included meetings with the community.
Earlier this week, the city held the first of two virtual town halls to get feedback on the next LMPD leader, hosted by a consultant with the search committee helping Greenberg's office in the search.
From those who participated, there were three big takeaways. The first: They want someone with local ties who understands and knows Louisville.
The second: They want someone who is more engaged and involved in the community than previous chiefs.
The third: They also want someone who is willing to stick around for a while.
"We also need a police chief who will stay long-term," one participant said. "Because there is very little you can do in a year. This did not happen over a year, and it will not change over a year."
For those who haven't provided their input and want to, another virtual town hall is scheduled for this Saturday, May 20, from 3-4 p.m.
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