LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The stage is mostly set for the 2022 primary elections in Kentucky, and a handful of candidates vying to become Louisville’s next mayor have released public safety plans.
The issue of policing, crime and how to improve the quality of life for residents, especially in Louisville’s lower-income areas, is key following two straight years of record-setting homicide totals in the city.
The Courier Journal has reached out to the campaigns of each candidate to ask if they would like to share their platforms as well ahead of the May 17 primary.
Here’s a rundown of who has responded or publicly released a platform, starting with the candidate to most recently share a proposal.
Chartrael Hall, a Republican who is a minister at Quinn Chapel AME Church as well as a life coach and motivational speaker, said he "will work diligently to allocate proper funding and resources towards mental health, substance abuse, illegal gun trafficking, policing and inadequate housing."
As mayor, Hall said he would "allocate 35% of the city’s budget towards the existing mental health resources and amplifying new programs for our residents."
His ideas include offering mental health training in all community centers and to any interested employers, having a "Mobile Crisis Unit" and "non-police urgent response system" and establishing "drug giversion task forces" to fight opioid abuse.
Hall also called for legislation that would "help streamline the process for developers to apply for state and local low-income housing tax(es)" and said he would implement a gun amnesty program allowing residents to turn in illegal firearms "without any questions asked or penalties."
Shameka Parrish-Wright, a co-chair of the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and manager of the Louisville Bail Project, released the following statement:
"I survived violence and gun violence because I had programs, faith, education, and options. I do believe and will support, gun safety training and gun lock distribution. I will always work with those who are doing the work first, so they can build capacity, expanding the deflection program that Khalilah Collins and DOVE Delegates designed.
"In this gun-toting state, with lax gun laws, we have to build awareness and educate people about responsible gun ownership, the laws and the rights of all, especially our black, brown, and poor white youth.
"I have worked on projects aimed at ending gun violence in communities, and what I have seen be successful is de-escalation, resources, training on conflict resolution skills, and giving our young people a sense of belonging and decision-making power. We have to listen to them to see what their needs are and be transparent in order to build trust. I plan to have real gun buybacks and work with local celebrities, especially those who own businesses and play sports, to initiate mentorships, and activities where our young artists can get free studio time, travel opportunities, year-round employment all while working on violence prevention."
Parrish-Wright then provided a list of other ideas, with more details also on her campaign website:
"Pools will not close."
"At least four 24-hour community centers across the county will also turn into respite centers after 9 p.m. where people can cool off and be connected with wrap-around services."
"Mobile trauma response units are filled with college students and professionals who spend time in the community engaging, even if there is nothing wrong. These units will have paid protection from people in the community where leadership is rotated and the chosen are elected every year by the community."
"Monthly community meetings with the faith community and people from every neighborhood to discuss what’s working and what can be improved."
"Asking those who have been justice-involved to help lead the way by directing with best practices on how to reach the youth who are involved in gangs or soon to be considering it."
"Work with victim services to make sure there is real funding to meet their needs, including relocation and trauma care for their whole family."
"When a person is killed, it impacts all," Parrish-Wright added. "Everyone loses. When possible, we will use restorative justice practices. We will take care of our communities, so the police can focus on the investigation. No one person or mayor can end gun violence alone. It has to be done in partnership. I will make the improvements and work to build genuine bridges in the community so that more people can become involved.
"I am the only candidate for Mayor that's seen this issue from all sides. I am ready to be bold, listen and take action to curve the violence."
Skylar Graudick is a former Louisville Metro Police officer who served as recording secretary of River City Lodge 614 and as a lobbyist for the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police. He also was a founding member of the Kentucky Public Pension Coalition, according to his campaign website.
"The needed police reform in Louisville can be split into two separate categories: reform that requires funding and reform that does not require funding," Graudick says on the "police reform" section of his website. "A lack of support for rank-and-file officers by LMPD management drives good, talented, and highly motivated officers out of LMPD to departments where they are treated better. This issue cannot be fixed monetarily."
Graudick goes on to details several policies, such as allowing officers to "publicly express the difficulties of police work and make criticisms of the department without fear of being fired," speeding up the investigation of citizen complaints and reforming LMPD's promotion process.
He also supports several changes that would require additional funding, including raising LMPD's training standards, boosting pension benefits, attaching social workers to patrol division and investing in mental health services for officers.
Graudick's website includes additional positions on areas such as bail reform, raising the felony threshold for certain offenses and other topics tied to public safety as well as more city issues.
Tim Findley Jr.
Tim Findley Jr., the pastor of Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center and community activist, shared details of his public safety proposals during a Feb. 1 news conference at 1619 The Gathering Place on West Main Street.
Findley reiterated he was the first candidate to publicly pledge to support universal, full-day pre-kindergarten for Louisville children, mentioning education as one of the "root causes" that city leaders must improve in order to also improve public safety.
Promising to have the "most diverse administration" in Louisville's history, Findley said he would support the Group Violence Intervention program, open more community centers and increase "trauma services" as well as services for substance abuse and workforce development.
"We will rely on grassroot organizations rather than simply expanding the budget and allocating more money to companies and organizations that are not invested and culturally competent regarding the people they servce," Findley said. "...We must have sustained investmen and not simply window dressing."
Findley said he believes Metro Government "must be completely overhauled and reorganized" as part of improving the quality of life and public safety in Louisville.
Calling the division of Codes and Regulations a "vital part of community health," Findley said his administration would "immediately go after absentee, out-of-state landlords who own vacant and/or dilapidated properties in our neighborhoods."
"We are going to fine you until you address these properties, fix it up or go bankrupt," Findley said. "Why? The need for quality housing is acute in Louisville."
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Findley also said he would "fully fund" the city's parks department.
He also pledged to pilot a universal basic income program in Louisville, which over two dozen other cities in the U.S. have implemented.
"A UBI program creates a system where residents of an area are given a direct cash payment at regular intervals to alleviate poverty, grow the economy and improve the lives of people just barely getting by," Findley said. "As our poverty rate in Louisville, and especially our child poverty rate, is so high, clearly our current policies are not working. In Louisville, 11.4% of our residents live in poverty. For children, that rate is 19.5%, and 16.2% are food insecure."
"...Poverty has proven to be cyclical and has held many in our community down for far too long," he added. "We seek to end this unnecessary cycle and give Louisvillians the support they need and deserve."
Findley also said he would partner with Transit Authority of River City to explore a "fare free bus pilot program, either system wide or along some of its most popular routes."
The program would initially look to involve routes that serve census tracts home to residents in need of more financial support to ride TARC, Findley told The Courier Journal.
"Cities such as Kansas City, Raleigh, Albuquerque, Boston, and Richmond have all experimented with fare-free bus systems for some or all of their lines," his campaign also said in a statement. "All of these programs have been carried out with great success, increasing ridership and saving both individuals and communities money."
Findley said farebox revenue makes up between 5% to 10% of TARC's overall revenue, or about $5 million to $7 million a year.
"This is hardly an insurmountable cost for Metro Government to make up, while the benefits are numerous," he said, mentioning reduced congestion on roads and more money for residents to spend elsewhere.
Findley later noted via Twitter he spent his Feb. 1 announcement talking about public safety "without talking about Police as the FOCAL point."
"I talked about improving the quality of life for those in Louisville," he wrote. "We SAY we desire change but keep following people regurgitating the same plan."
Craig Greenberg, the Louisville mayoral candidate leading the fundraising race among fellow 2022 contenders, released a public safety plan in January that, among other items, calls for "fully" funding and staffing a "community-oriented police force," expanding mental health treatment and removing abandoned cars and graffiti from the streets.
Greenberg, an attorney and former CEO of 21C Museum Hotels who is running as a Democrat, said public safety would be his top priority as the city's leader.
That echoes what current Mayor Greg Fischer, who is serving his third and final term, has said amid rising homicide totals in Louisville that broke grim records in 2020 and 2021.
"Louisville is in a tough spot," Greenberg said in a statement that leads off his eight-page public safety plan. "Our neighborhoods feel less safe, violent crime is rising, and too many people are trapped in addiction. We see abandoned cars on the streets and graffiti and trash in many neighborhoods. You’ve shared your concerns with me as I have run through every precinct in our city. I share your worry and sense of urgency to fix this and fix this now."
To develop his plan, Greenberg said he convened a "Public Safety Roundtable" to hear from police officers, crime victims, health professionals, corrections officers, judges, clergy and other community members.
Greenberg noted the Louisville Metro Police Department, which currently has about 1,030 sworn members, has been "short staffed by nearly 300 officers" for several years.
"Given our public safety and crime crisis, we need hard working police in our communities to prevent and solve crimes and assist people in need," Greenberg's plan says.
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Greenberg also said he would aim to bring back recently retired officers in the interim to ensure full staffing levels, and he would seek to fully staff LMPD's Domestic Violence Unit to better investigate and prevent intimate partner violence.
Among other aspects of his plan are a pledge to "expand and strengthen" the Group Violence Intervention initiative, "crack down" on illegal guns and "significantly" increase financial rewards given to members of the public who provide information leading to convictions in homicide cases.
Greenberg told reporters he is "rooting" for LMPD Chief Erika Shields to succeed but said he has been clear about "not making any promises to any individual about any roles" if he were to win election and acquire the power to hire and fire city officials.
Greenberg said he would create an "Abandoned Vehicle Response Team" to "quickly clear these dangerous eyesores off our streets."
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He also pledged to fix street lights, clean up graffiti and remove trash from Louisville's neighborhoods.
Jefferson Circuit Court David Nicholson, a Democrat who was second behind Greenberg in the fourth-quarter fundraising totals, released a public safety agenda in September. Read more about it here.
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Several months later, Nicholson said one of his first actions as mayor would be to appoint a civilian police commissioner.
A commissioner is needed after the Explorer sex abuse case and “a series of scandals” rocked LMPD and eroded the public’s trust in the police department over the years, Nicholson said March 1.
“The Explorer investigation began in 2013 and the current administration says they did not become aware of the investigation until 2016. I want you to think about that,” Nicholson said Tuesday. “They claim to not have been told that their own police department was being investigated for child sexual assault until three years after the police department began an investigation.”
The commissioner would, among other roles, “oversee all policy directives” of LMPD and “ensure they are properly administered,” have the power to “question and change outdated and dangerous institutional practices” and work to build more partnerships between officers and neighborhoods, Nicholson said.
A police chief would remain in place to "manage the day-to-day operations of the department," he added, pointing to New York City, Los Angeles and St. Louis and having similar commissioner models.
Apart from the Explorer scandal, Nicholson also highlighted the LMPD overtime pay scandal, Detective Mark Handy perjury case and Breonna Taylor’s death as other examples of why a commissioner is needed.
“The real pattern in all these cases is in the failure of leadership,” Nicholson said.
"The safety of the city of Louisville is also a key factor in attracting new residents and businesses to be part of our growing community," Molestina said in a statement. "I refuse to see our city be characterized as an 'unsafe' city. Therefore my goal as Mayor is to remove any excuse and exception that leads to an increase in violent crime.
"I seek to increase funding the police rather than decreasing the resources they need. The job of a police officer in our country is one of the hardest professions. For that reason the need to expand police training at a higher level is imperative.
An additional and important goal as Mayor, will to seek effective ways to rebuild the trust between the community and law enforcement. Our youth and young adults in particular have suffered greatly the effects of violent crime these past years. Together, I am confident that tide can be reversed that will allow Louisville to be a safe city for all."
Molestina said his goals would include establishing a quarterly "engagement gathering" in different precincts of the city to have police leaders meet with community faith leaders, and Molestina said he would like to see see faith leaders set up more "learning programs" for youth and young adults.
"As interactions with police and faith leaders becomes more established and the participation of youth and young adults in learning programs increase, the violent and property crimes have an opportunity to decrease," Molestina said. "The goal is to reduce the trend of violent and property crimes to decrease over 20% each year."
Bill Dieruf, the current Jeffersontown mayor, is running as a Republican for Louisville's top position.
"Public safety is undoubtedly the most critical challenge facing Louisville Metro and thus is the major focal point for the Louisville Metro Mayor race this year," Dieruf said in a statement. "Every mayoral candidate would be wise to have a public safety plan. But having a plan does not mean you can get it done. I don’t just have a plan. I have successful experience implementing proven public safety measures."
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On his first day as mayor, Dieruf said "my team and I will launch effective public safety strategies and programs that we know work and have experience implementing.
"I will surround myself with knowledgeable and experienced team members, including Jeffersontown Police Chief Rick Sanders. I will bring Chief Sanders with me in a yet to be determined capacity," Dieruf said. "He is an accomplished law enforcement executive with experience at the local, state and federal levels."
"Without showing our hand to the criminals we will pursue, here are highlights of the public safety programs we will launch immediately to get law and order back in place in Louisville Metro," Dieruf added.
Group Violence Intervention (GVI), which Dieruf noted is a "collaborative effort of law enforcement officials, members of the community and social workers who take a direct approach at communicating with people active in committing violent street crimes, offering a clear path out of that way of life."
"Intelligence-led Policing, a coordinated strategy involving law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal level working in concert to bring down drug dealers and gang leaders."
"Community Policing is an important way to connect officers with the people they serve. In Jeffersontown, our officers are required each day to go into businesses and walk through our city, connecting with our residents and business owners to build relationships and help them feel safe."
Dieruf went on by emphasizing the need to recruit more officers.
"Keep in mind when LMPD had 300 openings, they got 14 applicants," Dieruf said. "When the Jeffersontown Police Department had two openings, we had more than 100 LMPD officers express interest. Chief Sanders and I already have heard from a number for former and retired LMPD officers who have said they would return to the force when we are in place as Louisville Metro leaders."
Helping crime victims as well as those struggling with addiction with assistance from social workers and nonprofit organizations are other priorities Dieruf mentioned.
"Currently, efforts to address homelessness in Louisville Metro is akin to moving around chairs on the Titanic," Dieruf said. "We will collaborate with all local groups that serve the homeless population to ensure there are pathways available for people who are living on the streets."
Colin Hardin, a Democrat who has worked in the restaurant industry for the last 10 years, said in a statement he finds it "terrifying that the people of Louisville cannot go out without worrying about violent crime."
"The police are not solving our violent crime problem," Hardin said. "When we have a significant rise in violent crime, why are our police not resolving the issue? Others may claim that the police are inept, but I don't believe so. I think that our issue lies in what our police are focused on, which is the war on drugs.
"By having our officer's resources focused so heavily on drug usage, we are limiting the funding that can go towards getting real dangerous people off of the streets. In the self-reported data by the LMPD towards the end of 2021, 1,667 narcotics arrests were made in the year to date in September, far outweighing those of homicides or rapes. When these are coupled with the actions that led to the tragic death of Breonna Taylor, we can see how dangerous this misprioritization hurts us. And everyone is victimized by this issue.
"...What can we do about this? First we need to make sure that the LMPD stays funded, but redistributing the funds to counter violent crime and not focusing on non-violent drug offenses. Second, we need to solve our staffing issues with the city, recruiting new officers from unordinary places and communities oftentimes not represented within the police. We also need to focus on bringing in people focused on our civil liberties and rights, individuals who want to bring new ideas into the LMPD and reinvent what it means to be an officer to this city. And finally, we need to repair the relationship that the LMPD has to victimized communities, showing that the LMPD is here to help rather than hurt innocent people, through community initiatives focused on bringing a human face to both the officers and the people they are supposed to protect."
This story has been updated.
Reach Billy Kobin at email@example.com.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: 2022 Louisville mayoral candidates share public safety, LMPD plans