LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A sweeping review of the Louisville Metro Police Department recommends that police consider ending nighttime search warrants, allowing them only if daylight searches would "seriously" jeopardize criminal investigations.
It urges police to revise crowd management policies for protests to give greater emphasis to First Amendment protections for free speech and public assembly. In addition, reports on officers' actions during last year's protests over the death of Breonna Taylor ought to be completed.
And researchers propose that LMPD hire a diversity officer within its top ranks, noting that the police department has a dearth of African Americans in leadership positions, such as sergeants and lieutenants.
Those are among the more than 100 recommendations and findings from a 155-page report by consultant Hillard Heintze released Thursday, nearly eight months after Mayor Greg Fischer ordered a complete review of the department.
"Our principal finding is that LMPD and communities across the Louisville Metro area are in crisis," the report concluded. "The Department needs to make major changes -- some immediately."
The report said "the relationship is deeply strained between the LMPD personnel and many communities, especially in Black neighborhoods." It argues that the only path forward is a "fundamental and systematic rebuilding," a "true transformation of the department."
Hillard Heintze conducted anonymous online and telephone surveys last fall, with 7,805 people and 508 LMPD officers responding, said Amy Hess, Louisville’s public safety chief. Among LMPD, 78 percent of sworn officers participated.
“Community trust is a major issue in Louisville,” said Rob Davis, a Hillard Heintze senior vice president and former San Jose police chief. “We heard this in the surveys. We heard it in our interviews. We heard it during the focus groups. We heard it in the emails.”
“It’s very clear that there is an issue that the department needs to address in terms of how it interacts with the community – how people are being treated, how they’re explaining their actions,” Davis said. “Also, to the degree that the department is bringing the community in to help determine what those policies and procedures will look like based upon community wants, desires and needs.”
In addition, the report described police morale as low; 75 percent of officers who responded to the survey said they would leave the department and go to another agency if they could.
"That is very troublesome," Davis said. "That is going to be a challenge they are going to have to address."
Also, according to the report, there is a "racial disproportionality" in police actions such as traffic stops and arrests. It found that Black people are pulled over and arrested unevenly based on population size.
And the department needs more diversity, as the Black community is underrepresented in both the rank-and-file and upper ranks.
"The department truly needs to diversify itself," Davis said.
Davis said researchers believe there is a "desire" in the department for change and a "willingness to press forward and become better.
"Louisville can become a great department, and everyone wants that," he said.
New LMPD Chief Erika Shields said she will make the report a "blueprint" for the department and pledged to enact some of the recommendations.
"The report is a roadmap to move our department forward," she said. "We need to improve and we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Shields said she would provide regular updates to the community on changes made within the department.
"I am confident ... we can make LMPD an agency we are all proud of," she said.
And the chief acknowledged she is aware of morale problems and wants to meet with officers to let them know they are valued.
"It's my job to make sure these folks understand what they are doing is a noble profession," she said. "It does matter. It can be enjoyable. Let's get back to that space where you have pride to put a uniform on."
Fischer requested the top-to-bottom evaluation last summer after he fired former LMPD Chief Steve Conrad, saying the work would include community input and result in recommended actions.
Hillard Heintze was tasked with a review that included looking at motor vehicle stops; de-escalation tactics; executing warrants; policies that might contribute to possible racial profiling and bias; training policies; and community engagement.
Grassroots calls for changes to LMPD grew last year after the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor and the death of David McAtee, who was shot and killed by the Kentucky National Guard during a joint operation with LMPD during racial justice protests.
In its interviews, Hillard Heintze found a “culture of acceptance” in which supervisors rarely questioned the facts of officers’ investigations that were included on probable cause affidavits. Those affidavits are presented to judges who approve search warrants.
Consultants also reviewed a sample of affidavits and determined that “supervisory review was minimal. Supervisors generally approved affidavits immediately after an officer presented their affidavit without preforming an in-depth review of the affidavit’s content.”
Hillard Heintze recommended that LMPD change its policies to ensure that supervisors spend time to verify facts and other circumstances that justify the warrants.
A detective involved in a drug investigation that resulted in the fatal raid at Taylor’s home last March has acknowledged that information in his affidavit was not accurate.
On March 12, a day before the raid on Taylor's Springfield Drive unit, a warrant affidavit written by Detective Joshua Jaynes said he had “verified through a US Postal Inspector” that drug suspect Jamarcus Glover has been receiving packages at Taylor’s home.
But an investigative report from LMPD's Public Integrity Unit found that officers asked two members of the Shively Police Department to check with a postal inspector and were told there were no packages being sent to Taylor’s home.
Jaynes was fired earlier this month by former interim LMPD Chief Yvette Gentry for violating policies related to preparing the Taylor warrant and for being "untruthful" in his request for it.
"You failed to mention the information used was not verified specifically by you," Gentry wrote in a termination letter. "You did not have contact with a U.S. Postal Inspector. You did not 'verify' this statement you swore to in the affidavit."
Taylor was shot and killed in her hallway shortly before 1 a.m. March 13. She and her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had been in bed when police attempted to serve the warrant, Walker has said. Walker, who fired a single shot as police entered the apartment, said he believed officers were intruders.
Hillard Heintze said in its report that nighttime warrants are “inherently dangerous” and increase the risk to police and residents alike.
“When officers executing a search warrant suddenly awaken individuals, residents may be confused by the middle-of-the-night entry into their home and react in a defensive manner, as they may not be aware that officers, not a criminal intruder, are entering their premises,” the consultants said. They did not mention the Taylor case.
Fischer previously has cited policing changes that include a ban on no-knock warrants, and the creation of a civilian review board and inspector general’s office.
"This report shows we have much work to do," Fischer said. "We will address these challenges."
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