FRANKFORT, Ky. — For the first time since the demonstrations started in Louisville, Kentucky lawmakers heard testimony from senators and representatives about institutional bias, LMPD leadership, and calls for change and progress.
The hearing was conducted in front of an interim session committee and didn't allow for questions and answers of state senators and representatives. Committee Chairman, Senator Whitney Westerfield, insisted that this was a time to listen and a time to debate and take action would come later.
While some opposed his reasoning, Metro Council President David James and the ACLU’s Keturah Herron sat front-and-center and offered powerful testimony about banning no-knock warrants and holding officers accountable for disciplinary issues.
Ms. Herron explained why the Commonwealth had reached this moment, “It's because of, historically, the things that we have seen for centuries that has kept black and brown communities oppressed and poor white folks oppressed.”
“We find ourselves with segregation and red lining and voter suppression and all of those things that have taken place, and poverty all add up to what you see now,” explained President James.
Ms. Herron called for criminal justice reform, tax reform, and spotlighted past issues such as a natural hair bill that failed to get a hearing. She also mentioned lawmakers who did not quickly denounce the recent effigy hanging at the Capitol.
“Whether you say you was aware of the things that they stood for or not, it's smack in the face for me as a black woman walking these halls sitting in meetings trying to do the best that I can not only for me but all Kentuckians,” Herron testified.
Council President James choked back tears speaking of his friend, BBQ restaurant owner, David McAtee who was shot to death after police and the National Guard opened fire early Monday morning. The shooting is still under investigation.
The former police officer blamed many issues in the last week to years of failed leadership at the Louisville Metro Police Department. But he also asked lawmakers to keep in mind officers doing their best, especially African Americans trying to keep the peace.
“They are under a tremendous amount of stress”, he said, “especially the African American police officers. They’re caught in the middle. I want you to remember that they’re having people call them names and many of them grew up as children saying, “I want to be a police officer. I want to help people.” And they don’t understand why we’re here today. They don’t understand why people are threating to hurt their families and why that have to move their families into hotels and have them live with relatives because people are threatening to kill them, rape them. And that’s not right either.”
Some Democrat lawmakers were unhappy there was no Q&A at the hearing. They fear that this hearing will be an excuse not to tackle the issues raised during a regular session. Chairman Westerfield insisted that action will come and this hearing was a first step in creating avenues for action.
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