LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — After two years of negotiating, the city of Lexington and its police union have agreed on a new contract that invests millions and includes citizen input.
Mayor Linda Gorton says it was an easy decision to invest $21.3 million over four years to keep officers in the city.
"I believe very strongly, and I've said it in public, many, many times, that healthy, good communities first, have good public safety. They're safe. The neighborhoods are safe. The downtowns are safe so that people who live there feel that they don't have to worry about safety. This is what we're trying to increase is that feeling of good public safety," said Gorton.
The deal includes added benefits, $5,000 bonuses, and increased pay for officers. It covers 597 Sergeant and Officer positions. Assistant Chief Eric Lowe, who helped negotiate the contract, says that recognition doesn't go unnoticed.
Lowe also hopes being adequately staffed helps lower crime, which has been steadily rising in the city.
"As of today, we're 86 officers short of our authorized strength, which creates difficulties," explained Lowe.
Still, it's an investment several activists in the community have been pushing against since the summer with calls to 'defund the police.'
"Defund the police movement doesn't say that there should not be appropriate services to respond to crime. What it says is that we shouldn't take bloated money, that does not appropriately address social conditions and address those social conditions. Just increasing the number of police on the street does not solve homelessness or poverty or addiction issues, and so we just want to see those things adequately addressed," said April Taylor with LPD Accountability.
LPD Accountability activist group is grateful for reform and community input in other places, like the two voting civilian positions on the police disciplinary review board.
"Initially, people in the power structure said that was impossible without a change in the state law and the Mayor's Commission on Racial Justice's law enforcement subcommittee was able to outline how that is possible within current regulations. So, we're happy to see that change is there. We would like to see there be three civilians instead of just the two, but we are happy to see that there are two," said Taylor.
The Urban County Government is expected to stamp the final approval on the agreement Tuesday, November 4.