Interview: Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Discusses Breonna Taylor Investigation, Protests

Jul 31, 2020

Credit Ryan Van Velzer

 It’s been more than four months since Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police in her home while executing a no-knock warrant. City officials turned the investigation into Taylor’s death over to the state Attorney General’s Office in May.  The FBI is also independently investigating the case. 

WFPL’s Ryan Van Velzer spoke with Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer about the ongoing protests, investigations and public reaction. This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Q: Are you familiar with the ongoing FBI investigation and what the timeline might be for that?

A: The FBI is looking at the case from a civil rights standpoint, in particular as it relates to the warrant. Of course, they haven’t talked about what their timeline is either.

One thing that comes out of this, Ryan, is there is kind of a frustration with people on how long these investigations seem to take. People want quicker justice behind some of these. I’m frustrated by it as well. [At the} same time people also want a thorough investigation to take place. So then what comes out, when people want to agree that the truth comes out, we should all agree on that, and then outcomes we might disagree on, but we should all agree that we want the truth.

Q: Yeah, on that note, some people have said there’s been a lot of inaction on your part in terms of firing the officers, which is one of the key demands of protesters. Eventually, Brett Hankison was fired, but the other two officers remain on paid leave, if I’m correct. Why not fire all three officers and why not do that earlier in the process?

A: Yeah, we took the action that we could take based on the evidence that we had in terminating Brett Hankinson and it’s now up to the Attorney General to see if there would be any other charges filed with the case, if he’s finds something else in the investigation that he does or that the FBI does.

Q: So you took the action you could take with Hankison. Does that imply that you could not take that action with the other two officers involved in the shooting?

A: Assuming just because all of the officers were at the same scene that all the officers did the same thing. And obviously they all did different actions. So the actions that we could take, we took them.

Q: I wonder what you think about people who are still protesting. We’ve seen protest action shutting down a bridge between Kentucky and Indiana. We’ve seen protesters interrupt a ribbon cutting. We’ve seen a sit in at Daniel Cameron’s house. We saw protests in NuLu, most recently. What do you think about these protest actions? And what do you think protesters are asking for?

A:  Protests are a proud part of the American tradition. Obviously, our nation was founded on protest. There’s a reason why freedom of speech is the First Amendment so peaceful protesting, lawful protesting, we embrace. People are still protesting, obviously, because the work is far from finished in terms of building a more perfect America, a more perfect city here as well. Specifically protesting in Louisville, a lot of it’s continuing because Breonna Taylor’s tragedy has not been determined yet or what’s going to happen next by the Attorney General.

Q: By my count more than 500 people have been arrested in connection with protests. Do you think that all of those people committed crimes worthy of prosecution?

A: This is the difficulty when protests going go from being lawful to unlawful. And so both activities obviously, were taken by the police when laws were broken. And so what you’ve got to balance is the right for people to protest lawfully within disrupting an orderly working of a city or society. And that’s when law enforcement takes their action.

Q: Could you summarize your key accomplishments in the wake of these protests towards the racial justice and towards meeting the demands of these protesters?

A: We’ve taken over a dozen activities. It’s important that people see us moving quickly. Whenever we have the opportunity to improve, we’re going to do that. The work that was done on passing Breonna’s law was very significant. Breonna’s law bans no-knock warrants and requires body cameras by everybody that’s executing a search warrant. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen that night because they were undercover narcotics agents executing that search warrant. So, Breonna’s law is one. The civilian review work group is extremely important. It’s mandatory that there’s more transparency and more accountability within the police department as we look at the broader issue of police reform.

Q: Do you think that the trust has been broken between LMPD and the public? And do you think that LMPD handled the Taylor investigation in a satisfactory manner?

A: We have a city of about 800,000 people or so, so there’s going to be all kinds of opinions on police and community trust. The real tragedy that is around all this is, one, Breonna’s death and second, there’s not body camera evidence of what took place there… So I think trust in some areas is very much strained, in others it’s broken, in others, it’s what it has been with people recognizing that we’ve got to constantly work to build that trust and people have got to be involved and police officers and the policing in general in America has had a very disproportionate impact on African Americans. That’s not right. That’s why we need transparency. That’s why we need more accountability. We need culture reform. And as I talk to the vast, vast majority of police officers, that’s what they want.