Lexington’s Urban County Council considers police reforms

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – The Lexington Urban County Council’s Public Safety Committee began a detailed review of the city’s police department, its collective bargain agreement and other details.

It’s what city leaders have called a “fact-based review.

A long, tough, and important conversation began Tuesday among Lexington councilmembers, the city’s attorney, the police department, Fraternal Order of Police and the public.

Several topics discussed were “no-knock search warrants”, body cameras worn by officers, the collective bargaining agreement and Police Bill of Rights.

“Essentially what you put before us is a set of regulations that the state has imposed on us, that we do not have the opportunity to change ourselves,” says Vice Mayor Steve Kay, talking about the Police Officer Bill of Rights.

Something mentioned often, a lot of protesters’ demands are out of the hands of city government and local law enforcement. Like changes to the Police Bill of Rights, which is state law, and changes to the city and police union’s collective bargaining agreement.

“I don’t know that anything can be done on a meaningful level to the agreement, without having some underlying basis in the state law done first,” says city attorney, David Barberie.

Protest organizers have told us they believe these claims are just a deflection, that city officials are trying to absolve themselves from any responsibility.

But in a review of those demands, Police Lieutenant Jonathan Bastian noted several of them weren’t based on the Lexington police contract.

A lot of the discussion focused on “no-knock warrants” and the immediate moratorium to them, except in life-and-death cases.

The department’s current policy was discussed in detail.

“Are we perfect? No, but we realize what our job is anytime you do a no-knock search warrant it’s designed and specifically used to prevent loss of life,” says Police Chief Lawrence Weathers.

A councilmember brought up how that wasn’t the case for Breonna Taylor in Louisville and called the moratorium a “temporary fix”.

The chief says he was open to greater review of the policy and ways to improve it.

In regards to body cameras, the chief says over 400 are assigned to wear them but some in the department aren’t required to.

This concerned some councilmembers.

“Some of the people in administrative and non-enforcement positions aren’t gonna use them that much and there’s a cost associated with them and if they’re not using them, why are we paying for them?” says Chief Weathers.

The bargaining process was an important topic, specifically the disciplinary article in the contract.

Note, the disciplinary process is handled by a police review board that’s made up in the bargaining process.

“With the exception of the board, the disciplinary article, that is basically incorporating the existing state law. You’re going to have to change the state law ultimately to get that done,” says Barberie.

Bastian says the FOP does not accept police brutality.

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