LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Kentucky Republican lawmakers are calling on Gov. Andy Beshear to take more action in Louisville to address issues stemming from the pandemic and protests.
It started with a letter Louisville Senator Julie Raque Adams sent to the governor on Monday.
In it, she said Louisville is experiencing an increase in violence, racial tensions and economic hardship with businesses in downtown Louisville boarded up.
The Senate Majority Leadership wants Beshear to facilitate action in Louisville, saying they even want to consider calling a special session for lawmakers to discuss the issues the city is facing.
"We would like to know what the plan is privately, publicly. But I don't think anyone in this room or anyone watching can think Louisville is not wounded," Senate President Robert Stivers, (R-25) said.
They would also want a special session focusing on no-knock warrant legislation and policing tactics, both of which protesters have called for over the last few months.
When it comes to the protests, the lawmakers say it led to some violence, especially in downtown Louisville. They said the governor has more resources like intelligence information and the ability to call on the National Guard.
"We could have a special session where we could have these policy discussions and start to have that dialogue that builds a trust with the community that feels left alone," Senator Adams said. "So that a lot of these groups that are protesting, legitimately protesting on legitimate issues, know that we are listening and now that we hear them."
Gov. Beshear did respond to the lawmakers during his Tuesday media briefing.
"If we can get something done, that's something I'd certainly consider and I'm willing to work with anybody on legislation that's going to move our world ahead," Gov. Beshear said. "We've been actively working. We will continue to actively work, but we need some truth, in that we are not going to be able to fully address this until we get a decision in the Breonna Taylor case. We know that, we have to admit that in this."
Senate Majority floor leader Damon Thayer, (R-17), suggested in the briefing the governor condones violence in Louisville "by not addressing what's happening in Kentucky's largest town."
"You've got to be kidding me. You've got to be kidding me," Beshear said in response. "I'm against all forms of violence."
In the letter to Gov. Beshear, Adams wrote that Louisville is experiencing "turmoil" and "chaos," adding that the downtown is a "boarded-up mess."
"The entire downtown is not in chaos and once they get here they'll see for themselves they can enjoy themselves in downtown Louisville," Eric Talbott said.
Downtown business owner Eric Talbott runs his shop Talbott Fashions in the Galt House and he agrees there's a fear of downtown.
"The energy of downtown is not here and it has emboldened other people to come in and do some things that's frightened off some of the people who would normally come in to work," Talbott said. "If the governor has a plan and he can put it into effect to help downtown Louisville that would be great but I don't know what any one person can do."
The Republican Senate leadership also called out Mayor Greg Fischer, saying he isn’t doing his job.
"This mayor has not done a good job protecting his citizens," Sen. Adams said.
Gov. Beshear said he thinks Mayor Fischer should continue working on dialogue and trust with the community if it has been lost.
Mayor Greg Fischer responded late Monday evening with a statement.
“It would be easy to describe today’s press conference as partisan politics, but the truth is, I think it’s reassuring to hear our state legislators offering support to Louisville. Cities across the nation are facing many challenges right now – COVID-19, an uptick in gun violence, an economic downturn and renewed demands for racial justice – and we need support, and resources. We appreciate what Governor Beshear and his team have already provided, and we join Senate Leadership in their call for a special session to address the pressing issues we face. Our city has already taken many actions to start addressing these problems and we’ve been talking with legislators, Metro Council, and community about potential needs from the state, such as:
- Allow local jurisdictions to create Civilian Review Panels with subpoena power.
- Create a statewide officer-involved shooting investigative team to review all such incidents.
- Amend KRS 67C to increase accountability and transparency in law enforcement, including allowing police departments and public officials to discuss pending internal disciplinary cases.
- Ban the use of no-knock warrants statewide and require the use of body-worn cameras when executing all search warrants, just as Louisville Metro has done in adopting Breonna’s Law.
- Require all police departments to use body cameras, encourage transparency in release of video, and provide state funding for purchase of equipment and data storage.
- Support new laws, policies and state funding streams to promote mental wellness among officers, including making it a crime to attempt to “blind” an officer with a “laser light device” and criminalizing the practice of “doxing” (maliciously publishing the personally identifying information of) a public official.
- Fund a new cadre of “first responders’ from the social work and mental health fields to work in concert with officers to handle many of the emergency responses where a sworn officer is not the best ‘first’ solution to aide a person(s) in need.
- Fund violence prevention and intervention efforts to interrupt the cycle of violence and engage youth in productive activities
- Ban the use of chokeholds, neck restraints, strangleholds, and weight on subject’s necks unless necessary to save the life of an officer or another person. (This is current LMPD policy.)
- Require all police departments to train on de-escalation techniques, as LMPD does.
- Require officers to act to prevent or stop any member, regardless of rank or assignment, from using unlawful or excessive force; intervention may be verbal and/or physical. (Current LMPD policy.)
- Ban shooting at moving vehicles except in situations where officers are returning gunfire to save a human life or prevent a vehicle ramming attack. (This is current LMPD policy.)
- Require comprehensive reporting and public release of documentation when officers use force.
So yes – I’m glad to see this sense of urgency from our state legislators. We share it. “