LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville Metro Council voted to approve a new contract for Louisville Metro Police lieutenants and captains.
The contract was approved in committee last week, before heading to the full Metro Council on Thursday, where it passed 18-8.
The contract will mean 8.2 percent raises for lieutenants, and around 20 percent in 2023.
"The contract is a component certainly of keeping people here -- putting some rights, expectations in place -- but at the end of the day, the department simply has to do a better job of holding itself accountable," Police Chief Erika Shields said.
But the yes vote was immediately met with pushback. Dozens in the crowd -- some wearing pig noses -- chanted 'Shame on you,' as they walked out of the chamber.
Moments before the vote, councilmembers acknowledged concerns they still have and some questioned whether the deal makes it clear what measures will be taken to improve accountability. Some, like District 3 Councilwoman Keisha Dorsey, admitted they were still on the fence, weighing pros and cons.
"If we send this back to the negotiation table, we stay in place with the current contract and a lack of reform," Councilwoman Dorsey said. "So many of us are in between a rock and a hard place."
"This is not a perfect contract, but it's a substantial, substantial improvement," District 9 Councilman Bill Hollander said.
Others speaking about provisions that are needed, but that aren't in the fine print in the contract.
"In the next contract, let's end paid suspension for police misconduct. For accountability, let's make sure use of force is a fireable offense," said District 4 Councilman Jecorey Arthur.
"It's not clear to me how informal complaints are supposed to be handled -- exactly how long they're supposed to be kept for?" District 8 Councilwoman Cassie Chambers-Armstrong said.
Regardless, the move to rebuild LMPD is heading forward.
In a statement, LMPD's union (River City Fraternal Order of Police 614) said:
"We appreciate the support of the Metro Council to get this contract passed –a contract overwhelmingly approved by our members serving as lieutenants. The command level leaders of the LMPD, above the rank of sergeant, have been working under an expired contract since 2018. Supporting and approving this contract now is a critical step that may allow this department to retain the future of LMPD leadership. Our work is not done. The goal now is to work diligently to negotiate a contract that is acceptable to our officers and sergeants."
The majority of the audience, held signs reading "Vote No," desperately pleading for Metro Council to send the contract back and start over, to no avail.
Right after the final vote, emotions boiled over.
"My son was killed over two years ago," one woman yelled from the seats.
Many in the crowd wasted no time leaving the chamber, in disgust, heading to the elevators.
Speaking to Metro Council members more than an hour before the vote in a special discussion, Chief Shields made a final push to ratify the deal.
It was met with questions, not about the dollar amount, but concerns whether the deal would limit early intervention when complaints are made within the department.
"We've heard that we have one but we never turned it on," said Councilman Hollander.
Chief Shields saying she's confident this won't be an issue.
"Formalizing how the discipline will be handled, and more importantly, where it will be held," Chief Shields said.
Uncertainty extended throughout the night prior to the vote. One resident addressed Metro Council over zoom.
"FOP contracts have blocked accountability measures from being implemented," said Rachel Hardy, who lives in District 9.
As for a new contract for LMPD officers and sergeants, that's still a work in progress according to the Mayor's Office. The contract tentatively agreed upon for them was voted down by the RCFOP two months ago.
On Thursday night, the Mayor's Office said: "We are working with FOP counsel now on next steps."
Earlier during the special discussion and before the vote, questions from council members were focused on whether the contract would limit efforts for transparency. They asked if the focus would be on early intervention, catching issues and use of force policy violations early on and addressing them.
Chief Erika Shields said its still priority. She said the formal complaint process and body worn cameras still playing a heavy role in this. But she believes a big key is in informal complaints, which she said are addressed quicker and directly with an officer's supervisor. She called it a teaching tool.
“Informal discipline is the one I think in more of a gray area. When someone goes into a division and says, 'Well, I want to complain about officer so and so.’ We have recognized we need to tighten that up because sometimes it's documented, sometimes it's not. That's not going to be an option with the DOJ. I can just tell you that,” Shields said.
Metro Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong voiced concern that under this new contract informal complaints would only last in the records for two years if nothing develops from it.
Chief Shields responded, saying if LMPD needs to make more complaints formal, they can.