By Billy Kobin, Courier Journal

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Citizens of Louisville Organized and United Together brought together various local leaders, clergy and mayoral candidates at its annual assembly Monday night to push officials to more urgently fight gun violence in the city and improve relationships between police and residents.

During its Nehemiah Action Assembly at St. John Paul II Parish, 3521 Goldsmith Lane, CLOUT sought commitments from Mayor Greg Fischer; Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields; and Metro Council President David James, D-6th District; to launch the “Truth and Transformation” initiative within the next month.

Only James was present Monday to give his commitment to CLOUT, which said it had about 180 attend its assembly in person and roughly 1,000 tune in via Zoom.

“What we have gotten from the police chief’s office is no response. … All we have been told is she can’t come,” Rev. Reginald Barnes, with Brown Memorial CME Church, told the audience.

In a statement provided to The Courier Journal through an LMPD spokeswoman, Shields said she has “complete confidence in (Michael) Meeks, the city’s Chief Equity Officer, who is spearheading the implementation of the Truth and Transformation project (formerly Reconciliation).”

“He has brought a strong and steady approach to the initiative, and under his leadership, I believe that LMPD, with the help of many collaborative partners throughout the community, will be able to seize on all that the program has to offer,” Shields said in the statement.

And Barnes said Fischer’s office gave CLOUT a statement one hour before Monday’s evening began that “told us stuff we already know.”

Fischer spokeswoman Jessica Wethington told The Courier Journal she is “unaware of any statement sent today to CLOUT from Mayor Fischer.

“It’s my understanding that OSHN provided answers to the questions CLOUT raised,” Wethington said, later adding that Fischer “had a previous engagement and was unable to attend the meeting.”

Metro Council members approved $600,000 for that initiative, also referred to as “Reconciliation,” in the fiscal year 2022 budget.

The program from the Network for Safe Communities (NNSC) at John Jay College aims “for communities and law enforcement to come to a position of respect and trust by recognizing historical harms and experiences, building empathy and finding common ground and a mutually supported way forward,” according to the budget summary.

But CLOUT, which is made up of religious congregations and formed in 1991, said the two-year contract was not signed until November and that the city has still not hired a project manager.

CLOUT demanded officials launch the initiative within the next 30 days and said LMPD leadership must make a public “acknowledgment of harm.”

The $600,000 was originally recommended to fund the Synergy Project, which brought together members of LMPD and the community starting in 2019 for “action sessions” meant to bring to light both sides’ perceptions and build trust.

But critics, including CLOUT and James, have called the project a waste of time. 

CLOUT members emphasized the need to act now — not another few months down the line — to try to limit Louisville’s violence, which the Rev. Rachel Small Stokes from Immanuel United Church of Christ said has resulted in “far too many orphans, grieving parents and traumatized neighbors.”

CLOUT also asked Tad Hughes, who chairs the University of Louisville’s Department of Criminal Justice, and leaders with the city’s Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods to convene a new coalition of service providers and officials to develop “better coordination and collaboration” on fighting Louisville’s rise in gun violence.

The lack of cooperation between the city’s different programs geared toward stemming violence has been a “major barrier” to any effectiveness, according to CLOUT. Louisville has seen over 40 homicides and roughly 100 non-fatal shootings in 2022 following two consecutive years of record murder totals.

‘Flourish Village’ for older adults in Louisville

CLOUT also heard updates on its campaign to get U of L’s Trager Institute to establish a new “Flourish Village” initiative in Louisville.

Members of CLOUT’s Older Adults Issue Committee have previously written columns published in The Courier Journal on how the initiative offers support and social interaction to residents who want to stay in their own homes and maintain independence as they age.

In 2022, CLOUT said the goal is to see a “pandemic-safe version of the Village launch,” with programming tailored to an initial group of charter members from the 40202 and 40203 ZIP codes in Louisville.

See original story here.