April Taylor is a local leader of the LPD Accountability movement and a co-founder of the Wild Fig Worker Co-operative. She has been doing grassroots community organizing since she was a teenager. Some of the biggest wins she has been a part of include getting body cameras on police, winning a local raise in the minimum wage (despite it eventually being overturned by the KY Supreme Court), and collaborating with organizations that helped see the restoration of felon voting rights in Kentucky. She is most proud of the work she does with everyday people to help them discover their own power to bring about change, whether it’s changing policy, establishing a co-operative, developing a mutual aid network, or simply building supportive relationships with their neighbors. As a leader, she wants people to feel empowered against a system that seeks to commodify everything and isolate individuals in ways that prevent us from existing as thriving, whole communities.
Narrative from original post:
April: “When most people think of Black Lives Matter, they think of the national organization, the hashtag, or the many Black women, men, and children who have been murdered by police. While all of these things are never far from my mind, what sticks out for me are the things about the movement that hit closest to home…like Breonna Taylor and the fact that Brett Hankison, one of the officers who participated in her murder, used to work for the Lexington Police Department. His time at LPD was so problematic that he was forced to resign with a superior officer recommending that he never be rehired by another department ever again. My memories also drift back to Tony Sullivan, murdered by LPD in October 1994, with the officer being allowed to resign with a full pension in the exact same way LPD Chaplain Donovan Stewart was allowed to retire after punching a Black autistic teenager in the face on video at the mall in February of 2019.
City officials would have you believe that our local police force is different, that they aren’t like departments across the nation where racism lives and problematic officers terrorize the public with little oversight and little reprimand. However, most complaints filed by local citizens are determined to be unfounded because local police discipline goes through the chain of command at the police department with the Chief of Police determining what is valid and what is not, and all too often the thin blue line of silence protects those doing wrong when the police are left to police the police.
However, we are not powerless, and we do not have to wait on state and national legislators or politicians to change these systems. Our local city council and other city officials determine a significant portion of the policies and procedures that govern our local police department. Most people are shocked to find out that our local city council has the ability to completely restructure our local police department. Police discipline and policy is also determined to a large extent by a collective bargaining agreement between the city and the local Fraternal Order of Police lodge that must be approved by city council. The collective bargaining agreement also determines whether or not an officer’s disciplinary record is kept for just the current 5 year time limit or the lifetime we are currently lobbying for. It also sets limits on the discipline an officer can receive. For example, the maximum discipline an officer receives for a use of force incident right now is just a six month suspension. When we fought to get body cameras on police locally, it was city council that we had to lobby to have the funding placed in the budget for them. Despite city officials, city attorneys, local FOP officials, and LPD officials repeating for years that a police civilian review board is not possible without changes to state law, the Mayor’s Commission on Racial Justice Law Enforcement Subcommittee recently found ways to update the collective bargaining agreement to allow for citizen input in both the investigatory phase of police disciplinary complaints and the disciplinary review process.
For years, city council members had been too apathetic to question what they were being told by city attorney’s and police officials, and this is why it is imperative that we as local citizens engage with our local government and hold our local government officials accountable. Black Lives Matter isn’t just a hashtag, or a national movement. We must realize how much the lives of our neighbors matter and how much power and responsibility we hold as individuals in this city with the ability to affect local change to policies, procedures, laws, and budgets. The lives of Lexington’s most vulnerable citizens depend on it.”