I was assaulted on campus at the University of Louisville by someone I knew. As scared as I was, I called 911. The city didn’t send a counselor or trauma advocate. Instead, two officers showed up. I could immediately tell they were annoyed. One officer asked if I was “sure,” and kept insisting that maybe it was a misunderstanding. I had just been choked and lifted up off the ground while my assailant threatened me, but in the moment when I had to convince two officers that it was more than a misunderstanding, I felt just as helpless.
That was the last time I called the police.
After the assault, my grades dropped and I withdrew from many of the activities I enjoyed. My college experience changed drastically. I tried to follow up at the courthouse but didn’t get any help. LMPD did not prevent my assault and they failed to get anything close to justice for me.
We want more options, not more cops.
Every year more than 13% of college students experience sexual assault on campus, and one-fourth of women on campus report being raped. Nationally, fewer than 30% of sexual assault victims report the crime. While many may claim to want more police for the sake of “innocent women and children,” that doesn’t correlate with what a lot of victims call for. Survivors have asked for trauma-informed professionals instead of more police. When we do call the police, survivors of sexual assault are not taken seriously. We are dismissed and shut down by police officers as if the violence against us is too annoying to handle. Police already aren’t there for us when we need them. The narrative that defunding police will stop them from protecting rape survivors is baseless.
Police also do not prevent sexual assault. In fact, they perpetrate it – an officer is caught in an act of sexual misconduct every five days on average. And officers protect fellow officers when they commit these sorts of crimes. We recently learned that the LMPD failed to turn over more than 700,000 records relating to sexual assault in its Explorer program and that Officer Brad Schuhmann, an LMPD officer who sexually assaulted children in the Explorer program, was awarded a salary increase.
Police do not keep Black residents safe in Louisville. Violent killings are on the rise even as the police budget increases. What’s more, cops solve less than 30% of homicides, even though LMPD takes up about 40% of the overall budget. Throwing more money at LMPD will not keep Black people safe.
Meanwhile, despite the United Nations’ declarations condemning state killings of people who are members of specific groups, Black people are still dying by state violence at alarming rates. Meanwhile, across the country, we consistently see that officers who shoot in cold blood have a history of police brutality complaints. This reflects a culture of impunity when it comes to police violence: When Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the men who killed Breonna Taylor, wrote about her shooting, he claimed that he and his fellow LMPD officers did the “legal, moral, and ethical thing that night.”
We cannot trust the process when the process was created to cause Black suffering for the safety of protecting officers. Cops erase their crimes and are never held accountable. Across the country, racism has been declared a public health crisis. If racism is a public health crisis, then surely LMPD is a tumor. And a tumor cannot cure itself.
And we’re not just talking about police killings – the laundry list of violence perpetrated by the LMPD is long:
- LMPD officers beat a peaceful protestor in April
- LMPD barricaded 26th & Broadway during derby, preventing thousands of residents from accessing food at the only major grocery store, a laundromat, childcare, tax prep, a mental health clinic, addiction services, and a dialysis center.
- LMPD hid 738,000 records documenting the sexual assault of CHILDREN by LMPD officers
- LMPD tear gassed volunteers in a free food program despite telling media outlets they were no longer using tear gas.
- LMPD is under an active federal investigation by the department of justice for patterns of racism and misuse of funds
- Former detectives and officers have admitted to lying & wrongfully arresting people for crimes they didn’t commit.
- LMPD uses technology to surveil and terrorize Black/poor people.
More than 20,000 emails, tweets and calls from Louisville residents have demanded a substantial divestment from LMPD. Spending more money on police is not just wasteful, but antithetical to safety. Reallocating a significant amount of funding is a first step to true accountability.
I am urging city council members and democratic leaders to stand with us. Approving a budget amendment to reduce LMPD’s budget by $50 million and redirecting that money to struggling social service departments would have a significant impact on our most vulnerable communities.
Many of the things people call cops about are just nuisances – like someone parking in front of your driveway. Rather than deploying police we can invest in mental health professionals and unarmed responses. $50 million can go really far toward building community safety when it is directed toward libraries and parks and food justice and eviction prevention. It has the opposite effect when given to the police.
Reducing the police budget decreases their access to tools for aggression, and increases access to the things survivors and communities experiencing violence – including police violence – need to be safe. A budget amendment can improve access to counseling so that instead of annoyed police officers, I could have been met with a trauma-informed counselor. When police are no longer incentivized to kill Black people, we can finally breathe. The question we need to pose ourselves is what kind of world do we want to live in?