Consultant to Lead Louisville Police Training
Force's Procedures Will Be Reviewed, Changed
By Laura Bauer, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, Ken.)
Saying he wants the department's training unit to be more progressive and innovative, Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White announced yesterday that a national police consultant will take over the division's direction.
Bob Stewart, who has 35 years of law-enforcement and consulting experience, will spend the next year assessing the department's training program and implementing changes. Stewart and White said yesterday that they couldn't speculate when the assessment phase would end and when changes in officer training would begin.
"If I could, I would begin (making changes) this afternoon," Stewart said in a news conference at the training division at 2911 Taylor Blvd. "But before teaching new things, we have to take time to make an assessment. ... What you have to look at is what's the next available opportunity to make changes."
Though community activists have contended that a lack of proper training has been a factor in the last two police-involved shootings, White said the decision to bring in Stewart is not a reaction to any recent incidents.
White, who was chief when one of those shootings occurred, said he began talking with Stewart before Michael Newby was fatally shot Jan. 3 by Detective McKenzie Mattingly.
White said as he begins his second year with the department he wants to start making more changes that will improve the department and make it a model for the nation. He would not address any specific issues he had with training that prompted the change in direction.
"Out of fairness to the staff I don't want to sit here and identify a whole list of problems," White said. "I prefer to look at everything we do and see if there is a better way to do it."
White said Stewart could find in his assessment that the department is doing "a bunch of things good." The idea, White said, is to bring someone in who can implement changes that move the department ahead.
"If you want to be the best, you better expose yourself to what is happening across the country," White said. "I'm bringing in someone with a perspective that is universal. ... Bob has the ability to not only identify what the best practices are but implement those best practices."
This isn't Stewart's first time in Louisville. In previous years, before the city and county governments merged in January 2003, he was a consultant for both the former Jefferson County and Louisville police departments. He was also in town late last year as one of several consultants hired to help gather public input for the merged department's new strategic plan.
STEWART SAID HE will begin his newest assessment by talking to everyone from commanders and officers to community groups and citizens. He said he wants to hear what other people perceive as both positives and negatives of current police training.
The recent debate over the training for detectives in the 10 districts' flex platoons "provides me something to sink my teeth into," Stewart said yesterday.
The Courier-Journal recently reviewed training records of all 71 flex platoon detectives, many of whom have helped work day-to-day drug investigations, and found that three-quarters of them hadn't had any specialty narcotics training.
The review of records also showed that 37 percent of the detectives haven't had street-level investigations training. That training shows them everything from how to organize a case and develop and use informants to how to work undercover narcotics.
Stewart said he will review more than the training records of platoon detectives before he makes a determination of what, if anything, needs to be improved.
"Before I look at the training issue, I need to know how they are made up, and what are their functions," Stewart said. "Then I will look at how we are training them for that function."
AS FOR PAST police shootings, Stewart said he wasn't going to "focus on the nuts and bolts" of what happened. Instead, he said he would look at previous experiences and see if the department could have done anything better in its training.
Members of Newby's family have argued that a lack of police training played a role in his death. In a $5 million wrongful-death lawsuit filed late last month against Mattingly and the metro government, Newby's mother, Angela Bouggess, alleged that officers aren't properly trained and that metro government is "deliberately indifferent to the need."
Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together, an activist group, has for more than a year lobbied metro police to increase training of its officers and focus on community-oriented policing. Members of CLOUT said White has vowed to keep them involved as he creates a strategic plan for the future.
THOUGH THEY SAID they were encouraged by White's beginning a focus on training, CLOUT members said they don't think the chief has made good on his promise to keep them involved in the development of his strategic plan.
"We truly know that training is a must," said Lee Ewing, member of CLOUT's community-oriented policing committee. "But training in the classroom and training put on the street is oftentimes different. There needs to be some way to account for what's going on. ... It's not just the training of the new officer, but training of veteran officers."
In the next few weeks White is expected to announce more changes for the department. He said yesterday that he may employ more civilians .
"I'm of the belief that if it doesn't require a police officer and a badge to do it, we'll do that," he said, adding that consultants and civilians can come at a lower price and add an outside perspective.
Within the next several weeks, Stewart will identify a sworn commander to be his deputy director. That person, White said, will work alongside Stewart in the next year or so and take over the division once Stewart leaves.