Metro Council could slash problem-plagued department that uses ex-cons to prevent crime

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- They're not police officers, but many of them play the roll of violence "interrupters."

They work with the city as part of relatively new effort of using ex-convicts to prevent future crimes.

"We are creating more opportunities for those who have made a mistake and paid for that mistake to be successful," said Rashaad Abdur-Rahman, the director of Louisville's Office of Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN), which oversees the interrupters.

In a long budget hearing before Metro Council's Budget Committee on Wednesday evening, Abdur-Rahman said crime interrupters and other programs he manages are reducing homicides. But in the hearing, some council members questioned whether or not funding those programs is worthwhile while the city slashes other departments like Louisville Metro Police Department.

"Budgeting is about priorities," Anthony Piagentini (R-District 19) said. "There's never enough funding to fund everything ... never ever."

"There's been a lot of concern in my district, in particular, about the role of the interrupters," Councilman Scott Reed (R-District 16) added. "What are they? How are they vetted?"

During Wednesday's meeting, council learned LMPD is not being consulted when interrupters are hired. It also learned one of the nonprofits that hires the interrupters, called No More Red Dots, was just suspended for unauthorized purchases and questionable transfers of taxpayer funds.

The leader of that nonprofit shot back.

"Everything that was part of this suspension of the contract has been taken care of and rectified," Dr. Eddie Woods said.

In this tough budget cycle, Councilman Bill Hollander (D-District 9) doesn't want to pull the plug on the interrupters or the department over them.

"It's certainly non-traditional. It's hard to explain to people," he said. "But I don't think it's something where we want to say, 'We don't want to do it anymore.'"

Reed is less sure.

"Yes, homicides are down," he said. "But shootings are not down."

Anthony Piagentini believes money spent hiring interrupters could be better spent hiring LMPD officers.

“The hearing today with OSHN demonstrated how poorly the department is being run, and there are still significant questions about how it operates," he said. "We have proof they are violating some of their contractual obligations. So when we’re experiencing millions in cuts to LMPD, I think we should refocus funds from OSHN to higher priorities like LMPD.”

Mayor Greg Fischer's budget would cut OSHN by about $450,000. A council source said after the meeting Wednesday that Metro Council could cut the department by even more than that.

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