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Inspector general reports 'obstacles' to accessing LMPD information for investigations

An LMPD watchdog created in 2020 is now saying the department won’t cooperate on alleged misconduct investigations.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Inspector General Edward Harness said, during a Community Review and Accountability Board meeting, Wednesday, that his office is unable to obtain certain information and records from the Louisville Metro Police Department.

According to Harness, LMPD previously agreed to give the Inspector General's Office access to body camera footage, digital department records, updates on internal investigations and case management software. 

Harness said LMPD Chief Erika Shields agreed to those terms back in March 2022. However, he said the department has only given his office access to case management software.

“The lack of cooperation does not aid in or help the department build trust within the community,” Harness said.

When questioned on the matter an LMPD spokesperson said what Harness is requesting qualifies as criminal justice information services-protected information, which is "by definition, available to qualified employees of a law enforcement agency." 

The spokesperson said that violations of the protocol can compromise the entire agency's access, adding the department has "reached out to CJIS for written guidance of how best to navigate this terrain without compromising the agency's standing with their organization."

Louisville Metro Council President David James said LMPD’s concern with handing over body camera footage can easily be addressed with editing certain video contents containing CJIS-relevant information.

“Any other information I'm understanding that they want, is information Metro Council intended in the ordinance be turned over to the inspector general, so I don't understand what the resistance is from LMPD,” James said. 

Harness said without cooperation from police, certain investigations his office is conducting cannot move forward.

“There may be one or two cases that [the Inspector General’s Office] can continue to move forward on, but there are others that are stalled because of a lack of access to the information we need to do the investigation,” Harness said.

James said he's reached out to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and asked that Fischer have LMPD hand of the requested information.

WHAS11 reached out to the mayor's office and received the following statement:

"The goal of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to help strengthen the trust between our residents and our police officers, and move us a step further in achieving our goals of racial justice and equity. And while LMPD is working tirelessly on more than 150 reform efforts, there are some challenges we are committed to working through to make sure the OIG has access to all information LMPD can legally provide. The OIG has only been fully operational for a short time and the Mayor is taking all steps possible, including proposing possible amendments to the ordinance and recommending to the next mayor to continue pushing a legislative agenda for the board to have subpoena power, to ensure full transparency and cooperation."

Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance in 2020, the inspector general position, which it tasked with investigating complaints against LMPD, as well as reviewing LMPD policies and procedures.

Before arriving to Louisville, Edward Harness served as the executive director of the Albuquerque Civilian Police Oversight Agency for five years. Before that, Harness was an attorney who also served as a police officer in Milwaukee for 12 years.

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