Dear Mayor Fischer,
My 8 year old daughter, whom you have met, wrote a poem the other day in regard to the protest. The short poem reads:
‘The Protest is a big problem,
And I’m afraid no one can solve them.
The police are shooting reporters
And black sons and daughters
The COVID 19 is one thing
And shooting is what the police bring
It’s very sad and very bad.’
I thought her young lens was the perfect backdrop to this letter. It allows us to be put in the headspace necessary to discuss the following appeal.
As she starts her poem off, she states the obvious, ‘the protest is a big problem.’ A problem for both our city's visibility and a problem for the troubled masses that participate in the protest with no other incentive other than hope that their presence will create change. My daughter goes on plainly to say that she is ‘afraid’ and she doesn’t believe that anyone can solve the problems which she fears. But that's where she's wrong. You could ease her fears Mayor Fischer. You have that power.
There was a murder on March 13th this year. We know who did it. We know how they did it. We know whose life was taken as a result of it: Breonna Taylor’s. I am not writing to recount the past details of this tragedy. I’m sure you are more familiar with the events’ details than I, but even my eight year old daughter can see what's happening. ‘Police are shooting… black sons and daughters.’ I can’t help but imagine her growing up to be Breonna and in this letter, I am demanding her future safety.
I’m writing to demand a future, a future that we all have more power over than we care to admit. A future that you have more power over than you care to acknowledge. You’ve heard the chants of “FIRE! ARREST! CHARGE!” being screamed from the masses of your citizens, yet you ignore their demands. You have placed blame elsewhere to redirect accountability’s attention. You’ve talked, then listened, then talked yourself well short of the compassion which you are known to expound. As a proud citizen of Louisville, it hurts to see your lack of integrity. As someone who generally enjoyed your dirtbowl appearances and thumb-locking handshakes, I had hoped your integrity would prove solid as you finished your term. You have been given this perfect opportunity to defend your legitimacy, and yet you languish and allow your legacy to be that of past Louisville mayors that were too close to big business and not close enough to their population.
That being said, I am writing to inform you that it is within your power to fire the officers who caused Breonna’s untimely death.
Relevant Kentucky Statutory and Case Law
Police Bill of Rights: Acting in Accordance with KRS § 15.520
According to KRS § 83A.130(9), “The mayor shall be the appointing authority with power to appoint and remove all city employees, including police officers, except as tenure and terms of employment are protected by statute, ordinance or contract and except for employees of the council.” The statute referred to above is KRS § 15.520, the so-called “Police Officer’s Bill of Rights.” Reading through that thing would make the bible pass out from authoritative jealousy, but the most interesting part is found in section 2 which says, “In order to establish a minimum system of professional conduct for officers of local units of government… the following standards are stated as the intention of the General Assembly to deal fairly and establish administrative due process rights… at the same time, to provide a means for redress by the citizens of the Commonwealth for wrongs allegedly done to them by officers covered by this section.”
So, it looks like you can fire a police officer at your discretion so long as it doesn’t violate KRS 15.520.
“It’s not me, it’s the Review Board:” Metro Police Board Rules and Regulations
The Metro Police Merit Board rules and regulations state in Section 9.1 that “an employee can be dismissed for causes such as:
(a) incompetency or inefficiency in the performance of job duties.
- Inefficiency was displayed when officers failed to turn on body cameras before the execution of a ‘no-knock’ warrant. A warrant signed an entire day before the actual raid. Surely, this would ensure officers had time to turn on their cameras to capture footage that would've exonerated them completely, that is if things were done according to protocol.
(b) conduct, on or off the job, unbecoming (of) an employee of the Department
- I can think of nothing more unbecoming of an ‘employee’ than failing to put/turn on mandatory equipment during the execution of their duties, that’s like a surgeon operating without gloves.
(d) behavior which has threatened or injured the health and safety of an employee or others;
- “...Walker and Taylor believed someone was breaking into their home, prompting Walker to fire his gun in self-defense and hitting one of the officers.” Sounds like we hit two reasons for dismissal considering these facts. Not only did their behavior threaten innocent Kenneth Walker's health but also the health of their own coworker.
- Because what excuse do police have for not activating body cameras after extensive training and mandatory policies.
Mayoral Authority: KRS § 83a.080(3) and KRS § 95.765(2)
KRS § 83a.080(3) states - “The [non elected city] officers may be removed by the executive authority at will unless otherwise provided by statute or ordinance. Upon removal of a non elected officer at will, the executive authority shall give the officer a written statement setting forth the reason or reasons for the removal. However, this requirement shall not be construed as limiting in any way the at-will dismissal power of the executive authority.” This statute gives you the executive authority to fire police officers.
KRS § 95.765(2) that states “In cases where the mayor or chief has probable cause to believe that a member of the police or fire department has been guilty of any conduct justifying removal or punishment, he may suspend said member from duty, or from both pay and duty, pending said trial, and said member shall not be placed on duty or allowed pay thereafter until the charges are heard by the legislative body.”
If you're not yet convinced of the power you hold, here is some relevant case law for you and your team to consider: In City of Munfordville v. Sheldon, the court held that “a mayor or other local executive authority could not fire a police officer based on a citizen's complaint without affording the officer a right to publicly defend against the complaint as required under KRS § 15.520.” See 977 S.W.2d 497 (1998). This means that you can fire a police officer based on a citizen’s complaint if you give the officer a right to publicly defend against the complaint. A hearing in front of the Review Board provides the perfect forum to defend against a complaint. This statement of law was reiterated again in a 2014 case called Pearce v. Univ. of Louisville. The court in this case said “[as] we indicated [in Munfordville v. Sheldon] that "[n]othing in our holding prohibits a mayor from discharging an officer at his or her discretion [pursuant to KRS § 83A.080(2)]" and we qualified that by noting that discretion was proper only so long as "the reason behind the discharge does not trigger the hearing requirement of KRS § 15.520[.]” See 448 S.W.3d 746 (2014).
From my understanding, if I file a citizen’s complaint with you, you would then have every right to fire the officers responsible for Breonna’s murder if you also provide the officers a right to defend against that complaint through the form of a hearing. Simply put, you can fire them.
If they get their jobs back, so be it, we can cross that bridge after they are stripped of their guns used to kill Breonna and the badges they use to hide from accountability for their mistake. These are the things you CAN do as our mayor.
If all you need is a citizen complaint then I’ve got you covered.
The Power of A Citizen’s Complaint
According to statute KRS § 15.520(1) and KRS § 95.765(1) “Any person may [bring] charges against a member of the police…[and must bring those charges] to the office of the mayor.” Please consider this my formal citizen’s complaint:
I, a citizen of Muhammad Ali’s birthplace, Louisville, Kentucky, do hearby charge officer Jonathan Mattingly, Detective Brett Hawkins and Detective Myles Cosgrove with 2nd degree murder; voluntary and involuntary manslaughter; attempted murder; assault and battery: falsifying a report; failure in following rules of engagement; theft and disturbing the peace of an entire city. I request that Mayor Fischer fire this officer and these detectives for their failure to abide by the laws of this state and this country, and for failing to protect the citizens whom they have taken a sworn oath to protect.
Consider the matter brought to your office. Fire the officers and let us have a hearing instead of this being played out in the court of public opinion. My daughter put it best, “COVID 19 is one thing and shooting is what the police bring” and those few apples in the bunch that are “very bad” are making so many more citizens “very sad.” If you’ll allow me to pontificate upon her rhyme scheme a bit…
Your ‘run around’ tactics are making us ‘very mad.’ Do the right thing in the eyes of history and bolster your legacy among the constituents… FIRE THE COPS!!!!
Citizen of Louisville, Kentucky