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LMPD police misconduct a minuscule incidence
The LMPD Consent Decree Series, First in a Series - Louisville is heading for a major change in culture and expense
As promised in the last Fastzone on Substack post, the LMPD Consent Decree blog series will address a potential massive takeover of Louisville law and order.
The US Department of Justice Consent Decree with the Louisville Metro Police Department has not yet been formalized, but it has been acknowledged by Mayor Greenberg and Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel as imminent. A Consent Decree means that our police and new chief will be answerable to a court-monitored agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
At about 19’30” on the video, new Chief of Police Jackie GV says, “We are eager to begin discussions with the DOJ and negotiate a consent decree —.”
As explained in the previous blog series, the DOJ was invited to investigate the LMPD by Gov. Beshear and others following the Breonna Taylor incident. The DOJ investigation began in April of 2021.
In their report on March 8, 2023, seven areas were noted to prove that the LMPD engages in conduct that deprives people of their constitutional rights. (See Courier-Journal story) The LMPD:
Uses excessive force, including unjustified neck restraints and the unreasonable use of police dogs and tasers
Conducts searches based on invalid warrants
Unlawfully executes search warrants without knocking and announcing
Unlawfully stops, searches, detains, and arrests people during street enforcement activities, including traffic and pedestrian stops
Unlawfully discriminates against Black people in its enforcement activities.
Violates the rights of people engaged in protected speech critical of policing, and
Louisville Metro and LMPD discriminate against people with behavioral health disabilities when responding to them in crisis.
To her credit, Jackie has been proactive in addressing the revelations of the DOJ. A page on the LMPD website shows a table with each cited incident, and many include a link to a bodycam video.
She has looked into additional incidents, terminated seven employees, demoted one officer, and signed off on some suspensions and one involuntary transfer since last spring. The video mentions a number of actions taken.
She also recently initiated a reversion to the LMPD investigating its own officers in cases where they shoot someone.
Let’s be proactive like Jackie
Citizens can easily visit the LMPD website and read the police incidents cited by the DOJ as a ‘pattern’ or ‘practice’ that indict the LMPD.
I began to do that, but did not arrive at any incident that proved an officer lacked skill or compassion, though there must be some.
After reading quite a number, none which seemed to ‘shock the conscience’, I called the Louisville Metro Police Foundation to ask how many incidents the LMPD reports annually. Would 63 incidents be a large sample? I also asked how many officers we need to be fully staffed. When I hear back, I will report on this.
Suffice to say, it does not make sense for the DOJ to cite only 63 cases as grounds for demoting Louisville to a consent decree city.
Let’s say there are 1000 officers, and each reports 5 incidents/week and works 50 weeks/year. That adds up to 250,000 annual police incidents (probably a gross underestimate), so 63 would represent about .000252 (under .03%) of these as a sample. That’s not enough to conclude that our LMPD needs major reform.
No doubt the DOJ would counter that such a sample portends a staggering actual number that would warrant their oversight of our police. Hmmm.
Here is an example of an incident that is marked for ‘use of force’:
On 4/29/20 at 2334 hrs, Officer Stettenbenz responded to a trouble run near the intersection of Moonlight Way and Sedalia Dr. where a disorderly intoxicated female was running through the neighborhood. When he arrived on scene a hysterical female began fighting with a female then decided to start fighting a male. Officer Stettenbenz separated them and held her down with his foot by placing it on her shoulder She complied with a smile on her face and then bit his ankle causing a great deal of pain. With his stinger flashlight in hand, he struck her with four forward strikes to the left side of her jaw and left shoulder area to make her stop She was handcuffed and arrested and placed in the back seat of Officer Stettenbenz' patrol car. EMS evaluated her and she was transported to U of L prior to booking because of her intoxication level and excited state. Officer Stettenbenz suffered an injury to his right forefinger, right thumb during the use of force and a separate injury to his left ankle where he was bitten. The female was transported by EMS to U of L due to her intoxication level. She had to be sedated by staff. The subject had no visible injuries and did not complain of pain or injury.
Human bites are as dangerous or even more so than animal bites. Do we appreciate our police? Do we have any concept of their daily encounters?
Another incident with bodycam shows the nicest police officers anyone could hope to encounter. This case is marked for ‘use of force’ and ‘neck restraints’. I have not figured out why the incident is considered problematic. Please watch the video to form your opinion and read the incident description to understand the arrest.
The River City Fraternal Order of Police objected to the DOJ findings. Their statement reads, in part:
Unfortunately, no law enforcement agency is without flaws. There have been instances where officers have acted in a manner that is not consistent with the values, ethics, and morals of good policing. Some of those instances have been referenced in the DOJ report. However, there are protocols in place to address those transgressions and officers have been held accountable. The FOP supports holding police officers accountable for their actions. Officers, like all citizens, also have a right to due process and the FOP is here to ensure that right is afforded to our members.
We feel very strongly that this report is an unfair assessment of the great work that is accomplished daily by the vast majority of LMPD officers. We also feel very strongly that this report should not go unchallenged and should be dissected for evidentiary value.
The purpose of this blog series is to encourage Louisville Metro citizens to speak up and speak out against a Consent Decree with the DOJ, and do it soon.
In cities where DOJ consent decrees rule, the crime rate escalates from 80-100% and the administrative expense is in the millions of dollars.
Some examples of these and other shocking facts are in store as this series unfolds. Please share it.