Louisville Metro Council president speaks out about rash of police shootings

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- So far this year, Louisville Metro Police officers have fired off their guns five different times, either injuring or killing people. LMPD says that surpasses the total count of four for all of 2017.

"It's a shock to the whole system every time a law enforcement officer is put in a situation that they have to fire their weapon at a person here in our community," said James.

Metro Council President David James is a former LMPD detective. He said many people have approached him in the last few days asking what is going on in the city with so many police shootings.

"Officers don't go to work thinking they're going to shoot somebody," said James. "They go to work thinking, 'I'm going to go to work and help somebody, and then I'm going to come home and see my family.'"

James said it's a complicated web of problems feeding these violent encounters. He believes suspects feel emboldened and are more aggressive.

"The suspect does bear some responsibility in these situations," said James. "But also, the police department, government, officers have a great responsibility to try and serve and protect in this community. So we have to find a good balance for that. And it's not always easy to get to."

James also said the police department's leadership and officer training could be contributing to the volatile situation.

"I think it's incumbent upon us to make sure that they have the proper training," said James. "And to see what that training is."

James said he is particularly interested in how many weeks recruits are training at the academy and how many weeks the new officers are training with a field officer.

He emphasized that there are thousands of situations every year where officers successfully use de-escalation skills and tactics in order to avoid anyone getting hurt. But James said in every shooting so far this year, he believes officers reacted with gunfire because they were forced to protect themselves and others.

"When someone is coming at you with a dangerous instrument or a deadly weapon or they’re shooting at you, de-escalation isn't the issue at that point," James said. "Staying alive is the issue at that time."

James said some council members are discussing who they should reach out to with the department in order to review policies. He said they want to see if there are any systemic issues that could be putting officers and citizens in jeopardy.

"We don't want our officers killed," said James. "We don't want our officers injured. At the same time, we don't want citizens killed or injured, too."

James said it is also important for the department to seriously consider the impacts of these violent encounters on the officers' mental health and to properly provide for their recovery.

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