WASHINGTON– Last Thursday, the River City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) Lodge 614 in Louisville, K.Y. released an intimidating open letter to the community that no one outside the FOP could have seen coming.
In his statement, FOP President Dave Mutchler launched an aggressive attack on activists who have been calling for change in the Louisville Metro Police Department’s interactions with people of color. Referring to concerned community members as “sensationalists, liars and race-baiters,” Mutchler brazenly threw down the gauntlet, saying; “We are done with you.”
Judith Browne Dianis, Co-director of the –based Advancement Project, a multi-racial civil rights organization founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, issued the following statement in response:
“Mutchler’s letter was immediately seen as an attempt to silence the Louisville community. Instead of working with advocates to address very real concerns and create sustainable solutions to strengthen trust in the community, Mutchler chose to abuse the power of his badge and be a bully. At a time when the nation is still reeling from a racist, domestic terrorist attack against blacks attending bible study in church, the River City FOP letter is a reminder of the strained relationship between police and communities of color.
“Even as we question the motive behind the River City FOP letter and its broader implications, we also decry violence against law enforcement. We urge the fraternal order of police to participate in the quest for justice without demonizing commonsense efforts to challenge the status quo and secure improved relationships between communities of color and law enforcement.”
Only a few days before, on Saturday, June 13, Deng Manyoun had been shot and killed by a Louisville police officer, and tensions were running high. Mutchler then chose to release his letter shortly after the nation learned about 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof shooting and killing nine black men and women during a prayer meeting at Emanuel AME Church. The timing of the letter seemed intentionally designed to be confrontational– and to make a clear point.
Protests began immediately, with people marching on the police department looking for an apology, but Mutchler stood by his letter:
“There is no one in this community or in this country that should feel the least bit threatened by anything that I’ve written in this letter. All I’ve done in this letter is say thank you, say we’re going to keep doing our jobs, if you’re a criminal we’re going to keep trying apprehend you and keep you off our streets and if you’re a sensationalist, a liar an inflamer that we are going to exercise our right to free speech and call you out as well.”
We are attempting to determine the demographic make-up of the community “served” by Mutchler’s group, and the date of the next election there.