LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Metro Council leaders are seeking a change in the city's response to rising gun violence. In a letter penned by Council Majority Leader Markus Winkler, Council Minority Leader Anthony Piagentini and Council President David James, they are asking Mayor Greg Fischer to seek strategies to curtail the issue.
Thursday, Fischer said many of the strategies suggested in the letter are already at work in the city, and the best way to solve the issue is to continue working together.
“I understand people are upset and frustrated about the gun violence in our community, nobody more than me, unfortunately this is happening all over the country," he said.
The letter focused heavily on reassessment of the juvenile justice system. Strategies outlined are holding violent juvenile offenders more accountable and looking at reopening a detention facility in Jefferson County.
The downtown facility closed in 2020 and was replaced by a state run facility on LaGrange Road.
For a facility reopening, the members are asking Fischer to meet with Governor Andy Beshear's team and ask the state for funding.
“That’s creating an enforcement challenge and so I think its incumbent on us to say its not working the way we thought it would and we need to revisit that plan," Winkler said.
Winkler thinks having a facility nearby would smooth out the transfer process, saying officers often wait hours to get juveniles into the system.
Advocates like Shameka Parrish-Wright, who operates the Bail Project and is running for mayor, said closing the downtown center was a huge mistake. She said when juveniles are detained far from where they live, it can make visitation and rehabilitation challenging.
As the city looks for new ways to fight violence, Parrish-Wright said the city to turn to the old building.
"If it's closed and just siting there, what can we do with that space to offer more rehabilitation and opportunities for youth to connect with mental health resources and things like that," she said.
The letter also implores Fischer's office to take a look at a potential police partnership with Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS). This comes a week after 16-year-old Eastern High School student Tyree Smith was shot and killed at a bus stop.
The council members are asking Fischer to call Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio to work through violence in the school system.
"The city must stop acting like our responsibility ends when the child is on the bus and JCPS must stop acting like their responsibility ends when the child goes home at the end of the day," the letter reads.
Strategies suggested by the members include making Student Resource Officers a permanent fixture in schools, particularly high schools, or offering resources through the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods in a more proactive way.
In 2019, JCPS cut ties with local police who were providing school resource officers after LMPD reassigned officers during a budget crisis. The district started planning its own in-house security, but leaders said plans stalled during the pandemic.
Other issues addressed in the letter include staffing gaps in the metro police department and a clear understanding of what federal law enforcement agencies bring to local investigations.
They are asking the mayor to resume negotiations with the Fraternal Order of Police to finalize a union contract and to enhance incentives to increase police recruitment.
Lastly, the members are asking Mayor Fischer to hold a weekly press conference addressing the gun violence the city weekly on how gun violence is being combated by his office.
"This is a crisis," the letter reads.
Fischer addressed the letter at the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) new officer graduation. The mayor said it takes everyone in Louisville to address this issue.
"We certainly don't have failed leadership," the mayor said. "Everybody needs to be looking into the mirror and say what can I do to help? There are so many different programs going on in the city within the police department, Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods, JCPS, other community players as well. So the key is everyone needs to come together to say how can we produce a safer city?"