Mayor Greg Fischer, Police Chief Steve Conrad and Louisville Metro Government Chief Equity Officer Kellie Watson today launched the Synergy Project, a community engagement initiative aimed at further strengthening police and community relationships grounded in trust and legitimacy.
By bringing together people from all parts of the community – residents, academia, business, youth, faith-based organizations, law enforcement, and political leaders – this project creates an opportunity for police and community to work together in a safe, open, and respectful environment to identify root causes of distrust and find actionable solutions to move the city forward.
“Like communities across the nation, Louisville has challenges when it comes to police and community relations. We need to address that, and we believe that real, honest conversation is a good place to start,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “I’m excited about the prospect of sessions planned throughout our community to really delve into complex issues and find solutions.”
The Synergy Project will explore the tensions that exist between the significant societal values of public safety and individual rights and determine how to create and maintain a balance between the two. Synergy will explore these tensions in order to mobilize actions for city-wide systemic change so every person in every part of the community can thrive.
The Synergy Project is modeled after The Illumination Project, an initiative undertaken in Charleston, S.C. after the 2015 hate crimes at Emanuel AME Church. During a year-long process, dozens of facilitated community conversations were held to discuss tensions between police and residents. At the end of the year, a strategic plan was unveiled, which continues to be revised and implemented today.
Each step of the process seeks to build greater understanding and agreement. Watson said that while the conversations may be challenging, the effort has the potential to forever change police-community relations in our community.
On Thursday, Mayor Fischer and Chiefs Conrad and Watson introduced the community members who have volunteered to serve on a Steering Group for the project.
“I’m grateful to the many officers and community members who have agreed to help guide and develop this process,” said Chief Conrad. “We need everyone in the community engaged to make our city safer, and we can’t do that unless we build better trust. This process is to help us do that.”
Chandra Irvin, Executive Director for the Center for Peace and Spiritual Renewal at Spalding University, participated in the development of the Charleston project and is lending her expertise to the project here in Louisville.
“This work is about what we do and what we achieve, about who we are and who we are becoming,” said Irvin. “Based on my work in Charleston and my belief in the people of Louisville, I believe we can achieve a shared greater purpose of building trust between police and residents. This effort is going to take the investment of the entire community.”
The Synergy Project is being initiated as part of Mayor Fischer’s Lean Into Louisville initiative.
“The goal of Lean Into Louisville is to have a more equitable city; a more unified and compassionate city where everyone can thrive,” said Chief Watson. “This is the beginning, by having difficult but honest conversations on issues that impact our entire city, such as police and community relations.”
Costs for both Synergy and Lean Into Louisville are being covered through generous donations from The Papa John’s Foundation for Building Community, the Humana Foundation, the Gheens Foundation and other donors, as well as through in-kind donations from Spalding University and other Metro Government agencies.
“I’m impressed with the city leadership’s commitment to creating programs that promote equality, fairness, respect and opportunity for all. These values are consistent with the mission of The Papa John’s Foundation,” President and CEO of Papa John’s International, Inc. Steve Ritchie said. “Working together to heal and move forward takes courage, which is why we are proud to support The Synergy Project.”