LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Marchers Stand Up For Metro Police


They marched in a public unity they said is long overdue. They criticized the local media, saying news outlets highlight o­nly the negative side of law enforcement and ignore the good.

After a parade of speakers, from politicians and event organizers to crime victims and officers, the police supporters insisted their "silent majority" will now have a regular presence in Louisville.

"Hold your head high," Bridget Abell told the officers in the crowd.

"It is our goal to have you hear these words, these nice things more often. Each of you are my hero," said Abell, organizer of the rally and founder of the six-week-old group Citizens for the Fair Treatment of Police.

For more than two hours yesterday, a crowd of 500 to 600 people ? many relatives or friends of law-enforcement officers ? held what resembled a pep rally for area police.

The event started with a march, from Fifth and Breckinridge streets to Jefferson Square at Sixth and Jefferson streets in downtown Louisville.

Once at the square, the group listened to more than 2 hours of pro-police speeches and testimony from people who say officers have been instrumental in their lives.

One woman told the group how a Louisville Metro Police officer saved her life in November by shooting and killing a man who held a gun to her head.

Laura Howard smiled as her grandson handed a statue of a guardian angel to Officer Tom Hodgkins, who shot suspect Derek Jaggers. The statue depicts the angel watching over a uniformed police officer.

"This man literally saved me and my family," Howard said. "We wouldn't be here today and I love him."

The rally comes six weeks after the most recent police-involved shooting, in which Michael Newby was fatally shot by Officer McKenzie Mattingly.

Police Chief Robert White has said that Mattingly and 19-year-old Newby were struggling over Mattingly's service handgun when the weapon discharged during an attempted undercover drug buy.

Newby ran, and Mattingly fired his gun four times, striking Newby three times in the back and killing him. Police said a .45-caliber gun was found in Newby's waistband, along with drugs.

Newby was the second man, and first African American, fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police since the city and county departments merged Jan.3, 2003. Since 1998, 11 men have been fatally shot by police in Louisville. Seven were black.

In the weeks since Newby's death, several protests have been held, with activists criticizing police tactics and demanding that government leaders hold officers accountable.

Abell's group formed after she and other members became fed up with what they call police-bashing by activists and the media. Though organizers have insisted that Citizens for the Fair Treatment of Police and yesterday's event were not directly in support of Mattingly, many people wore T-shirts and had bumper stickers on their clothing supporting the officer. Others carried signs of support for him.

Though a group of self-described anarchists had called for a counter-protest, they did not appear to be present at the rally. The police supporters were met at the square, however, by more than a dozen activists protesting the Newby shooting. As the marchers entered Jefferson Square, the activists chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, those racist cops have got to go." As the rally began, the small group of protesters with Newby family members at the core held signs demanding justice in his death.

Newby's mother, Angela Bouggess, had tears rolling down her face as her husband, Jerry, held her in his arms.

Jerry Bouggess, Newby's stepfather, said he supports police, but was critical of signs of support for Mattingly.

Abell said her group is not about one officer or one incident and the rally was not for Mattingly; it was for police in general.

What worried some is what they view as a rush to make race an issue in police-involved shootings.

At one point, Officer Mark Kordis said the media need to "try just saying suspect and officer" and not "white officer and black suspect."

His comments prompted applause from the crowd.

"I think it's time for this community to understand when someone breaks the law, whatever color they are, there are consequences," said Greg Fields of Louisville. "It's time we understand it's not about race. It's about people who are breaking the law."

Many of the pro-police marchers directed signs and comments at journalists. "Media, please report the truth," was the sign carried by Tamie Martin, 58, of Clarksville, Ind. She has two sons who are officers, one in Peachtree City, Ga., and another in Naples, Fla.

The turnout "really shows people are tired of what's going on," Martin said, referring to people coming to conclusions before all the facts are known.

University of Louisville junior Luke Flint, 21, said officers do many good acts, but the media focus on negative incidents.

"Hopefully the media will focus more on the positive points," said Flint, a political science major who said he wants to be a police officer.

Karen Harris of Louisville said that her brother David Ryan is a training officer with the metro police and that the community does not understand what police are up against every day.

"It's easy for people to sit in their living rooms in a comfortable chair and watch it on TV," Harris said. "Until you're out there facing it, you don't know what you would do. Officers have to make split-second decisions, and how many of us have to do that in our jobs?"