Jamillya Martin, Savannah Hughes, Kelly McCall and Phil Lloyd-Sidle, Opinion contributors. This op-ed was published in the Courier-Journal on November 10, 2020. Contributors included some local LSURJ members.
This past Thursday evening, Metro Council had an opportunity to boldly state it will not cater to the whims of the Fraternal Order of Police. However, it did not do so.
Rather, the tail looks like it's wagging the dog. Metro Council chose the route of no conflict and failed to take decisive action toward redressing major systemic wrongs. The Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and the FOP, approved by Metro Council on Thursday in a 16-10 vote, demonstrates we have not learned anything from the last nine months of 2020 (let alone past years) regarding police violence, misconduct and a severely deteriorated state of community relations.
The timing is bad.
The city’s whopping budget that already funds law enforcement is out of whack. We actually — as a city — pay more to the Louisville Metro Police Department, juvenile detention and our county jail, than any other aspect of municipal life. Over half of our city budget goes to law enforcement. By those numbers, one could not naively wonder if we are living in a version of a police state.
Not education, not job creation, not public health, not housing, not wealth development for Black or other poor neighborhoods, none receive the same measure of tax dollars as is dedicated to law enforcement.
We are a city that appears to want a quick fix (and a deadly one at that) to solving the deep social problems and poverty that so many are enduring. ... or dying from. And we are pouring money down a dangerous drain instead.
Unfortunately, the contract continues the hemorrhaging of tax dollars. Rather than take our time to develop a more sound contract slated for June 2021, Metro Council chose to approve a temporary contract without public hearings or a more studied approach. This not real policy but currying favor with the FOP.
As thousands in these same months have been losing wages and jobs, facing health crises and evictions and falling into greater insecurity, the city continues to open the faucets to the police. This is a structural problem: We are dedicating taxpayers’ money to a structure that does not deliver safety and well-being. Decades of research indicate individuals and communities are safe not because they have a militarized police force, but because the communities have resources.
Sadly, as well, this contract fails to deliver regarding the legitimate concerns of police misconduct. The national organization Campaign Zero has identified six key safeguards that municipal police contracts may or may not contain which address the problems of police (i.e. employee) misconduct and accountability. If a city is not careful or attentive to these six major areas, it becomes nearly impossible to hold police accountable for their actions. The six safeguards are:
Campaign Zero has made a study of 81 of the United States’ top 100 cities. Louisville is one of only six major six cities in the country that have failed to include any of these six safeguards in its police contract. Instead, we cloak our policing in secrecy.
We must change this.
We missed an opportunity with this temporary, short-term and unnecessary contract. As we deal with larger budgetary issues for Louisville and anticipate a new round of longer-term negotiations with the FOP in the new year (scheduled for approval in June), we must dedicate ourselves to a deeper and broader vision of community safety for all.
Public spending cannot keep increasing for law enforcement while diminishing the funding and commitment to the deeper issues of equality and justice and people’s suffering.
Jamillya Martin, District 6; Savannah Hughes, District 10; Kelly McCall, District 17; and Phil Lloyd-Sidle, District 9.
This past summer, SURJ convened a cohort of multi-discipline white artists across the country who were responding to the call to create art by white artists and cultural creators for white people to help inspire and sustain white folks in the long-haul work of justice work.
This website, White artists for racial justice!, is live. Both the site and the Instagram account connected to it is a showcasing of the incredible work these artists did together.
*If you'd be willing to donate some time to help with image descriptions on the website of the visual art for accessibility purposes, please email firstname.lastname@example.org*
Here are additional resources from SURJ National:
- The toolkit, "Call to Action and Creation for White Cultural Workers" that includes prompts, background, and support for white artists making anti-racist work
- Sign up to join SURJ's artist group
- Sign up for SURJ's work on the Senate run-off races in Georgia
- Donate to SURJ and New Georgia Project
- Sign up to get email updates from SURJ