LMPD pledges new tactic at CLOUT event

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer
CLOUT (Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together) held an assembly Oct. 29 where it welcomed St. Leonard Church as a new member and heard about the Louisville Metro Police Department’s plan to de-escalate certain confrontations.

The Community Problems Assembly, held at St. John Paul II Church on Goldsmith Lane, drew more than 300 people.

They heard from Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad, who reported a change in department policy related to officers’ interactions with mentally ill individuals and those suffering from drug addiction.

Earlier in the year, members of CLOUT asked Conrad to ensure officers use “de-escalation” methods when arresting individuals suffering from mental illness and drug addiction.

Chris Finzer, co-chair of CLOUT’s mental health and addiction committee, said the police chief’s report was a positive one.

“We met with members of (LMPD’s) command staff over the summer. It resulted in great success for CLOUT, the LMPD and the community,” said Finzer, a parishioner of St. John Paul II Church.

The chief reported the department has added language in its policy and procedural manual stating officers are to use de-escalation methods in interactions with people who are mentally ill or addicted, said Finzer

De-escalation, Finzer said, involves officers using a friendlier tone of voice, keeping an adequate distance between the suspect and themselves and giving the suspect time to process what the officer is saying, for instance. De-escalation also calls for officers to avoid the practice of automatically pointing a gun at individuals during an arrest.

The chief also reported that during investigations into the use of force, the department will now take into account whether or not an officer used de-escalation methods.

In a statement from Conrad’s office to The Record Oct. 31, the chief said, “Over the past several months, my staff and I have had several meetings with members of CLOUT to discuss our de-escalation policies and training, which focused mainly on how and when de-escalation tactics are used.”

“I believe we have had productive conversations, which led to some changes that we believe will not only improve our policies and practices but hopefully will also lead to a reduction in the number of injuries to both citizens and officers.”

Finzer said the new policies will be effective on Nov. 7, adding, “We’re happy with it. The chief has been cooperative. This should make Louisville a safer place for police officers and the community.”

St. Leonard’s pastor, Father Louis Meiman, said the decision to join the organization came as the parish took part in a discernment process called for by Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in 2017. During this process, the archbishop asked parishes in the

Archdiocese of Louisville to reflect on ways “to become more deeply a vibrant parish — becoming more deeply the Body of Christ.”

Father Meiman said the parish looked at its “involvement in the wider community and the needs of the wider community and social justice overall.” The parish council determined CLOUT was a “good fit,” he said, noting the parish had members who were already part of CLOUT.

“We’re looking forward to joining other parishes and working towards bringing some positive changes to the Louisville community,” said Father Meiman.

St. Leonard joins five other Catholic churches as members of CLOUT. Epiphany, St. Edward, St. Gabriel, St. Francis of Assisi and St. John Paul II churches are also members.

CLOUT is also supported by a national grant from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development. The campaign awarded CLOUT a $65,000 grant this year and last.

The campaign was established in 1969 as the national anti-poverty and social justice initiative of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. A collection benefitting CCHD is held annually in November. This year’s collection will be taken up in parishes Nov. 23 and 24.

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