Police chief: Officers are afraid to be proactive and enforce the law because of anti-police sentiment

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LOUISVILLE, KY- This was totally predictable…in fact, a number of law enforcement authorities, including Law Enforcement Today said this is exactly what would happen in the current anti-law enforcement environment.

This week, Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields said the quiet part out loud—that police are becoming reluctant to engage in proactive policing.

Louisville, Kentucky, like most larger Democrat-run cities across the U.S. has seen a spike in crime across the board, from “minor” crimes such as shoplifting to serious felonies such as armed assault and murder.

This past week, Chief Shields admitted that police officers are reluctant to engage actively in the community, the Courier-Journal reported.

“We have a real backlash against policing, which in turn has prompted what you’re seeing…is a reluctance by the officers to self-initiate activity, and to be proactive,” Shields said in an interview with The Washington Post.

 

Officers, Shields said, don’t believe they have the backing of either the community at large, or the city government.

“What I have encountered was officers, just not confident…that the command leadership, the administration, the community, the city council will support them,’ Shields said.

This is nothing new, as last June Louisville Metro officers walked out of a meeting with Mayor Greg Fischer, claiming they did not feel he had their back in the midst of protests over the killing of Breonna Taylor in a botched no-knock warrant.

Shields, who was only named chief last January is trying to restore trust between police commanders and rank-and-file officers, creating an executive team engagement plan that will see commanders join officers for police details.

“No amount of messaging that I was putting forward was going to resolve that as much as saying to the executive to put on a bulletproof vest, get the radio, we’re going to go out,” the chief said. “We’re going to patrol with these folks.”

Some Louisville residents, however, were dismayed to hear Chief Shields’ statement, including Kenneth Forbes Sr., whose son Kenneth Forbes Jr. was killed in a shooting back in 2012. Forbes helps others through an organization called Mothers of Murdered Sons and Daughters (MOMS) of Kentucky. He said that without police being proactive and doing their jobs, their work is that much more difficult, he told WAVE-3.

“They call officers and detectives to get follow-ups on homicide cases, they don’t get any phone calls returned to them. We’re constantly wanting answers, we’re not getting those,” he ruminated.

He called Chief Shields’ statement about police reluctance a “slap in the face.”

“When they [families] try to have so much hope and trust into leadership in our police department, then you hear someone like that in leadership role, it’s really discouraging and it’s really frightening,” Forbes said.

“Because then you see all the shooters, all the ones out here doing the most crime fell like they’re winning.”

Forbes, a military veteran said that while he understands the tough nature of police work, police commanders need to be more proactive in boosting morale of Metro PD officers.

Someone who was not surprised by the chief’s statement is Dr. Eddie Woods, affiliated with an organization called No More Red Dots.

“Just by the nature of how police work is done, they come after the fact,” he said.

His organization tries to intervene prior to violence occurring.

“We keep wanting to do programs and hope the shooters brush by the programs, it doesn’t work like that, you have to be intentional about who is creating the situations,” he said.

Dr. Woods said he hopes to see more proactive policing in Louisville and noted the chief’s proposal to have commanders build relationships with front-line police officers.

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Forbes said police need to know that people like him support the police.

“We just want an open line of communication with you all, and know that you all have our support, you’re supporting us as well as us supporting you,” he said.

In addressing her new initiative, Shields said she has gone out on patrol five times in the past two weeks and has already seen 26 illegal guns; she said this showed her firsthand what her officers are up against.

Shields told the Post that her officers are afraid to get involved in contentious situations, concerned of being put in the position of having to use force. She also noted that due to the spate of firearms on the street, officers are more likely to have to use their own firearms, the chief said.

“What I’ve tun into is this department that has all these officers that they want to work, they want the community to be proud of them, they want to do the job correctly. They just want direction,” Shields said.

The Louisville Metro Police is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has signaled that it will be much more active in sticking its bureaucratic nose into local police departments.

The DOJ is also currently subjecting the Minneapolis Police Department to a consent decree, which historically has led to increases in crime as officers, fearful of federal retribution, have backed down, similar to what is occurring in Louisville. Shields described the fed intervention as “another punch to the gut.”

A spokesman for the LMPD’s Fraternal Order of Police, Dave Mutchler said that officers have been looking to hear what Shields would say, noting that officers are looking to leadership for support more now than ever. Mutchler also noted that scrutiny of the police isn’t a problem, but more so the fact that people attempt to provoke police to get a response instead of utilizing the court system.

“They are putting police officers in situations, hoping to make them use force, or whatever the case might be, to try and prove that police are overstepping their bounds,’ Mutchler said.

Mutchler’s statement appears to be accurate, as we saw last summer during the violent BLM and antifa riots, where police were forced to respond to unprovoked attacks by rioting thugs, only to see politicians and others turn that response around and blame police for the violent encounters. In other words, police were expected to accept being assaulted without the opportunity to protect themselves.

The Louisville Metro PD has been under increasing scrutiny due to the Breonna Taylor case, as well as alleged discrimination, for example, in how officers conduct vehicle stops.

A couple of months ago, a police officer was shown on camera punching a protester repeatedly in the face, a scene that caused a protest among activists. The protester is now suing that officer.

There has also been a call in Louisville to defund the police from the usual rabble-rousers, in this case a Louisville Black Lives Matter activist named Shauntice Martin, who is calling on the city’s Metro Council to remove $50 million from the LMPD and shift it to other programs. Others, however, have called for a budget increase due to the recent crime explosion. The recent budget did not cut funds to the LMPD’s budget.

Shields noted that as of July 1, the police department is short 241 sworn officers due to a combination of resignations and low recruitment numbers amid anti-police sentiment. The current recruit class, authorized for 96, only attracted 31 recruits.

Shields, who served as Atlanta’s police chief before resigning last year after the justified shooting of Rayshard Brooks said in a LMPD podcast that in some ways, she understands why policing is being criticized and said in some cases “the wounds are self-inflicted.”

“Police across the United States has taken a huge hit, departments are struggling everywhere to hire, and so we are not an anomaly here at LMPD,” Shields said at a June press conference. “Policing has to rebrand itself and become desirable.”

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