Protesters denounce FOP head for controversial open letter

Protesters denounce FOP head for controversial open letter

Protesters congregated at the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) headquarters on Monday, June 22 in response to River City Fraternal Order of Police President Dave Mutchler’s criticism of anti-police brutality activists.

The nonviolent demonstration was originally scheduled to take place in the lobby of the headquarters, but when organizers Attica Scott and Ashley Belcher found that the building was closed, they moved the protesters to block the intersection of Jefferson and Sixth.

Protest organizers distributed a document with twelve requests for the police department. On Tuesday, Mayor Greg Fischer said that he had “no legal basis” to fire Mutchler, though he and Police Chief Steve Conrad released a joint statement last Friday criticizing Mutchler’s “threatening tone.”

Protest organizers hung this list of twelve requests for the police department. Photo by Peter Champelli.
Protest organizers hung this list of twelve requests for the police department outside LMPD headquarters. Photo by Peter Champelli.

Demonstrator Kennisha Fisher said that concern for her children prompted her to participate in the protest.

“As a mother to five black sons, I understood that the police department has made a statement by allowing the president of the union to make this statement,” Fisher said. “So I have come down today to protest the thought process behind the letter and the hatred that was spewed in it… It puts me in a position as a mother of five black sons to say that apparently, to the police, it’s open season.”

In a press conference last Friday, Louisville Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Dave Mutchler addressed criticisms of his controversial open letter that referred to unspecified activists as “sensationalists, liars and race-baiters.”

Press Release-River City FOP Lodge 614

Mutchler defended the statement on the basis that he was exercising his right to free speech and serving as an advocate for FOP members and police officers.

“We need different thoughts, different ideas and different groups of people in this city to make sure they’re honest with everybody,” he said.

Mutchler added that he understood when writing his letter that community members might potentially receive it poorly.

“I was very aware that there could be backlash like that,” he said. “But here’s the thing: we all have a role in whatever our job or endeavor is, and my role is to represent my members. If in doing that, I have to receive backlash from people who don’t understand what I’m saying, or don’t agree with what I’m saying or misconstrue what I’m saying, then I just have to take that.”

Mutchler wrote the letter nearly a week after LMPD officer Nathan Blanford shot and killed Deng Manyoun, a 35-year-old Sudanese man who was seen on surveillance tape swinging a metal flagpole at the intersection of Fourth and Oak.

According to Mutchler, however, his statement was only partially a response to the aftermath of the recent shooting. Mutchler said that the letter addresses what he believes to be a pattern of illegitimate, unfounded criticism of the police over the past two years.

Both community leaders and local government officials have levied criticism against the open letter.

“Mr. Mutchler, in separate phone calls with both of us prior to his news conference, said he was seeking to clarify his position, strike a constructive tone, and emphasize that no person of good will should feel threatened in our city,” Fischer and Conrad wrote in their joint statement. “After listening to his press conference remarks, we remain very concerned that Mr. Mutchler, with the leadership position he holds, does not understand the impact of the tone of his remarks and original letter.”

According to Manual Black Student Union board member Taylor Little (12, J&C), Mutchler’s message was dismissive of the legitimate concerns that many community members have about police officers.

“Overall, I thought the message was very hateful and almost as if [Mutchler] was annoyed with the protesters and activists of Louisville,” she said. “I don’t know if he doesn’t care about our problems or if he doesn’t think that they’re real, but his messages and statements sound like he’s tired of us trying to fix something that he’s not fixing himself.”

Little said that instead of antagonizing opponents, the FOP ought to make an extra effort to reach out to the community to hear their concerns.

Lydia Mason (11, MST) said that though she was disappointed with Mutchler’s message, she was not surprised by his inflammatory stance.

“Dave Mutchler may be one of the select few people to openly threaten the public and deny the legitimacy of racially-based police brutality in a public statement, but he definitely isn’t the only person who feels this way,” she said. “I’ve heard many people deny that antiblackness is an issue in America or that racism exists. This is just someone being more open with that view… I hope that this can shed light on the state of Louisville in terms of racial justice and spark positive change instead of just the usual anger and subsequent half hearted apology.”

Though police officer and Manual assistant football coach Curtis Lipsey declined to comment on whether or not he agreed with the content of the letter, Lipsey said that he respects Mutchler’s right to free speech. Lipsey also acknowledged that he could not confirm that the letter reflected the views of the River City FOP as a whole, since the group did not hold a vote or assemble a committee to make their statement.

LMPD officer Jenny Assef declined to be interviewed for this article.

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