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tv   Louisville Police Chief Discusses Public Safety  CSPAN  July 8, 2021 1:16am-1:46am EDT

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>> up next on c-span, louisville, kentucky police chief shields talks about the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on crime, revamping gun laws, and measures police can take to prevent crime. she spoke at an event hosted by "the washington post." >> hello and welcome to washington post law. -- live. it is my pleasure to welcome louisville police chief erika shields as we continue our conversation about the rise in violent crime across the country , public safety, and the role of policing. please chief shields was previously the chief in atlanta. they give for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> i have no easy questions for you and we will art with crime
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being up in louisville but crime was up in atlanta where you worked for 25 years. crime is up in virtually every big city. shootings that handle sides are up. -- homicides are up. they rose in louisville last year and they are on the rise now. the total last year was 170. why is this happening? we used to see these stats going down year over year. what started to change in 202021 -- 2020 and continued into 2021? >> you're asking the right question, because what is different? when i look at louisville, it's similar to atlanta and georgia and that is in the southern states where you have very lax
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gun laws, it doesn't lend itself to a high proliferation of illegal weapons on the street. you lay on top of that there is a post-covid component to it. individuals who are marginalized are for the set on the sides we talk about young people. when you have young people without agency in their lives, often a safer area school or clubs like big brother or sisters. now you have children without anything to do. now we have the illegal guns, we have idle time on our hands, we have a real backlash against policing which has prompted but
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we are seeing in many areas. what we are seeing is a reluctance against officers to initiate activities to be proactive. it's not that they are anti-community, it is last year put them in a brittle space where they are not sure the committee wants them. they are concerned that if they are involved in use of force, they will immediately be vilified with protesters in front of their house and they are acutely aware given the volume of guns that are on the street that they may have to use force. the marked difference that you are seeing is a removal of services in a police force that
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is reactive and the only way you can fight crime is if you disrupted ahead of time and has not been occurring. >> you touched on about five different things i planned to ask you about. you have talked about how it is crucial. last month, you launched engagement to get your community out there. i think it has only been three or four weeks since we have been doing this but how has that gone for you so far? >> previously, you always have to figure out what the issue is that you are facing. here what i have encountered is
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officers are just not confident that the command leadership, the administration, the community and city council will support this. there is a real reluctance and a real hesitancy to step forward and step out. stepping out of that is a high volume of resignations. really what is happening is a true belief in the commanders that we will fight for them, that they did what they had to do and no amount of messaging going forward was going to resolve that. but on the bullet-proof vest can get the radio and we are going to go out and get control. it is important to me that the message starts to make it through different parts of the
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counties and cities. they see first-hand that we do understand we have to do. for me, it is great opportunity to see firsthand how many guns were on the street. we have the detail five times. we have seized 26 guns and those were just the guns that were legal. it has been very unsettling. it has been good and we need to continue, but i do not think it is coincidental.
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we have been seeing homicides every night we started this detail and we went eight days without a homicide and i believe that was a result of the engagement shown by officers and i am appreciative of it. >> let's talk about guns. gun purchases are way up everywhere. are there fixes to gun laws that you support and could pass. >> i have an obligation to serve all can insurance. i will say that there has been such a lack of common sense on some of the laws we have seen past in recent years. i ran into this in atlanta. i've run into it here. why does somebody need to be able to walk around with an assault rifle in a city park and city street.
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i think anybody could stand up and say that's not what the constitution had in mind. get your head out of the plant holder. if we put down our swords and really say we want a policy of truth and safety for all americans, we can come to the table with something that it has become so politicized people don't want to listen. so there is that, there is also a ground of listening to the doj there now, i really hope that the department of justice will expand the platforms and start looking at those areas experiencing an uptick in crime or areas with mass shooters to see how the judiciary is operating. it is imperative that somebody start demanding transparency
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from the ag office, the judges, or the system. what i can tell you without fail , the violent, repeat offenders that my folks are arresting and the operative word is repeat have been arrested repeatedly for possession of an illegal firearm or not being authorized to have a firearm. if you really want to change the narrative around policing and lower the level of officer-involved shooting's, you have to start holding accountable those individuals that have shown they are predisposed to committing violence. and that is not just a louisville issue. when i go to conferences, this is an issue we are all struggling with. howie days a week are judges working? are they requiring plea bargains, are they going to
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trial, how any times are peeping that our people being allowed first offender status customer at some point it is not fair to the constituents. >> he raised about 14 points there, the key one at the end was that i think the courts were responding to the sort of backlash on over incarceration. and then covid came along and they were trying to clear the jails so that people did not die in jail. do you think the courts have lost their sense of balance? a lot of them have not gotten back up to 100% speed. they have gigantic backlogs and excuses out the planter, as you might say. [laughter] why do you think the courts, you are right, a lot of chiefs have
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criticized the courts for being slow to respond. i don't particularly understand why repeat offenders are getting released. where is the disconnect here in terms of the courts getting back to where they were, or is it that they are responding to criminal justice reform by letting too many people out? >> what i would say is this. there was mass incarceration in the 80's and 90's all day long and i will not defendant. but the fact of the matter -- you will automatically see myself and others cringe when you see mandatory sentencing.
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it really does not handle the issue. however, but we are talking about are people who have and are willing to kill other people. this is an issue with the courts that are long before covid, no way shape or form should it be part of the excuse process. i think that when there is a lack of transparency in any institution, whether it is government or private sector, and the whole truth within many of these agencies, have just become so politicized that there is not even the time or attention given that there should be. many of them are fast-track. i do think they look into what the priors are. i think he seat negotiations with judges and jails.
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-- i think you see negotiations with judges and jails. there is a much larger underworld that needs to be looked at. the result has created a very unproductive system. >> sort of along those lines, people have criticized the decriminalization of certain low-level offenses by reform minded prosecutors. not arresting for marijuana, trespassing, low-level stuff. and that cities run by democrats in particular are being hit hard by crime. his crime becoming a political issue and do you think the criminalization of low-level crimes is contributing to the spike in crimes? >> it would be convenient to say that, but when i look at the folks we are arresting for homicides, for shootings, when we are looking at the victims
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engaged in these violent activities, it is not low-level activities. it almost always connects to some sort of weapon. it may be drug driven in terms of dealing with drugs but we need to start talking about trespass not changing the narrative. what mayors need to be considerate of is if someone is running a business and a person is arrested for criminal trespassing that is interrupting their ability to make a living and they go down to the jail and they walk in wonder and go back out the other and are back in front of the business, that to a business owner can impact their livelihood.
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how are you going to shore up that gap when you know there is a problem? >> you have targeted gun violence with something called intelligence led policing. how does that work? >> the last thing i want is for my office to randomly go out, stop a bunch of cars and a bunch of people and hope they stumble on somebody. that is a recipe for trouble and frankly as part of the reason lmpd is in trouble with the doj. this is for people engaged in violence. identifying with a network of
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associates whether or not there is gang violence or weird see their actions with drugs moving through the city it is focusing on specific individuals for violent crimes. so you have a very direct directive about this is who you are looking for but this is also what you are looking for. in other words, searching a vehicle should be an exception, and not the norm. it is understanding that going to the higher level charge, when you give yourself a high five because you got some weed off of someone, that is embarrassing. that is not going to change crime in the city. it is really messaging what our focus is and this is the path to get there. >> you mentioned the question of
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sending mental health clinicians into scenes where people are in crisis. we had a recent story where the clinicians were not always so thrilled to jump into a hot scene. you have got something going called the deflection initiative. how does that work and have you had enough time to try it yet? >> it is not up and running curia. -- here yet. we had something similar in atlanta. we want people to go out and be a part of it. the reality is when you're dealing with mental health businesses, you just never quite know what you're going to get. the situation may readily go out but you have to construct it in such a way the safety of the caseworkers is paramount.
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if they feel they need a police presence, it has to be afforded to them. the idea is that when a 911 call comes in, you have people trained and triaging out that issue. so they know the questions they ask, they get their mind around it so it is not just sending the police and having the police make an assessment. so you have a core group that will be sent. then you will have some that fall in the gray area where you are not sure if there's going to be a confrontation of violence, so the caseworker and police meet up and go in together. problem solved. we did something similar in atlanta and it worked fantastic.
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it was coordinated very heavily with nonprofits and the issue that went on we ran into was we did not have the capacity for the number of individuals that needed help. so that's what the university of louisville's building on program for here and that's one message i keep posting to them. -- pushing to them. the demand can exceed -- can well exceed what you can eat and you don't want fall off. -- walk to fall off. -- want to fall off. >> how did your folks respond to the breonna taylor case and how has that been so far? >> what i will say is from the time i came here, i message that it would be fortunate if they did not come but we had to be realistic and understand they probably would.
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i think from a command level, probably was not so alarming. i think that it was another punch in the gut. they had really just been pummeled over the last year and we will be the first to tell you , they have grown up but a lot of the stuff is not ok. i take pride in the police department and take pride in officers and some of the stuff they have been suggest to is not acceptable. i think it was really demoralizing, because it was just like here is another later. that was the thing that really surprised me. when i started, i was fairly
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certain people would not want to work. just knowing what they have been through, that cops would not want to work. and yet from day one what i have run into is there are departments where they have all of these officers, they want to work they want the community to be proud of them, and they just want direction. it is a prideful department. the doj was a gut check but what they have come in and asked to look at, their concerns, i have not read anything that i did not already expect and at some level is public. it is not going to be easy this department will be stronger once it navigates through it. >> in atlanta, he stepped down as chief after one of your officers shot and killed rayshard brooks, a man who was
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running away from them in a wendy's parking lot and that came shortly after the death of george floyd. are there some large lessons you have taken away from that episode and from the time in atlanta that have made you a better chief? >> there are always lessons there are lessons every day. what i would say to folks is every incident is different. what you are seeing and why there is such hesitance is rayshard brooks was absolutely a tragedy come all day long. but what i will say is he fought with the officers, the situation became escalated over and over and so what you have to figure out is are we going to get into
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a space where individuals we know are dui if we let them go as well. there are some really differing opinions about how policing should be done beyond the obvious and there is a much larger conversation we have to have. that is such a tricky place to get into because of certain that mothers against drunk drivers would have a very different feel on that. there is stuff that i have taken away every day from my job that i will do differently but one thing that really stuck out to me after the killing and when i looked at the other incidents, i
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wish i pushed harder. i don't think we have invested enough in our officers in requiring them to become people in hand to hand tactics. while technology has been wonderful, it has also allowed us to become complacent in a number of ways. the officer needs to be able to get out of a patrol call and answer a call. being reliant on pepper spray, trains or -- tasers, pepper ball guns, what have you it has allowed them to not have that level of comfort that police did when i came through with hand-to-hand combat. and by combat i mean firm grip holds. someone on the back of a patrol car, maneuvering their elbow to get them in custody. look, as cops you're going to have to deal with confrontation.
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there's a reason we train. it does not go well all the time. but how as a cop are you going to handle it when a person resists arrest? what i see is officers, they don't know how to fight. and i don't mean choke holds, i just mean somebody in custody without the situation escalating i know that when i left atlanta, i felt like how do we get it where to be good in something like that you really have to be training. we have this instructor at our academy that teaches jiu-jitsu and he is world-renowned.
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i want the department and city to pay for people to go twice a week, but the problem is how do i get people to go? i went to that class that this guy teaches, and i felt empowered after one class. one class. that's what i need, the confidence that you feel like you don't need to pull out your gun, do you know what i mean? so that's my next challenge. >> i could ask you many more questions just about that. thank you for speaking with us, really appreciate it. thank you for speaking to us. join my colleague for a conversation with medical experts of the state of the coronavirus pandemic from vaccines to variance. -- variants.
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