Legislature Weighs Subpoena Power For Louisville Police Civilian Review Board

Mar 1, 2021

Louisville's recently-created police civilian review board and office of inspector general would have subpoena power under a bill on its way to the Kentucky Senate, but the action would require a judge's approval.

Police block off a street after curfew, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Louisville, Ky.
Credit AP Photo/Darron Cummings

The city voted to form the independent civilian board to review alleged incidents and police policy as a step toward accountability in the wake of racial justice protests. But supporters say, without the ability to subpoena, the board will have little ability to help restore trust in the system.

"Without trust, we do not have a proper relationship between community and police," said Louisville Sen. Gerald Neal.

Under a compromise put forward by the Senate's top Democrat, the review board would deliver a complaint and the inspector general could then issue a subpoena, provided it's signed off on by circuit court judge.

While the language satisfied most on the committee, others remained hesitant to endorse Louisville's path toward reform. Republican Danny Carroll, a retired police officer, said he fears other communities will follow the lead of the state's largest city.

"I think what Louisville Metro has done will lead to mass resignations, retirements," Carroll explained, casting a no vote. "I just don't think this is the best way to address the problem."

A commission on racial equality formed in Lexington recommended the city create a civilian review board and add three civilians to an internal police disciplinary review panel.