The head of a Louisville police union published a scathing open letter on Thursday, telling "sensationalists, liars and race-baiters" that they should consider themselves "on notice" after they spoke out about the fatal officer-involved shooting of a mentally ill man over the weekend.
"Your idiocy and lies are what caused the destruction in Ferguson, (Missouri), and other cities around our country and we won't be tolerating that here," wrote Louisville Metro Police Sgt. Dave Mutchler, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 614. "We watched in shock most recently as some of you flat out lied to the media after a critical incident here in Louisville."
(Read the entire letter below.)
Mutchler's letter was an apparent response to concerns raised in the community following the Saturday police shooting of Deng Manyoun, a mentally ill Sudanese refugee who was killed after charging an officer while swinging a metal flag pole.
Some witnesses initially suggested that the officer, later identified as Nathan Blanford, may have shot Manyoun while he was backing up and complying with the officer's commands. Surveillance footage released days later showed that Blanford was backing away from an advancing Manyoun before Blanford fired two shots.
Blanford arrived at the scene after a woman called 911 to report that she had been assaulted by a man believed to be Manyoun. Some in the community have criticized Blanford's decision not to use a less lethal option before drawing his service weapon, though Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad claimed at a news conference Sunday that Blanford didn't have enough time to take such action.
In his letter, Mutchler suggested that his group is tired of seeing critics second-guess officers every time they use deadly force. He also characterized the current push for police reforms and increased accountability as tantamount to opposing law enforcement, denouncing what he called "lies and hate" that put officers and the public in danger.
"Your ridiculous demands and anti-law enforcement attitude has reached a level that is unacceptable. You want our attention? Well you have it. Consider yourselves on notice," Mutchler wrote. "You and those you enable must abide by the law and comply with law enforcement like everyone else. If you refuse to comply or even worse, attack a law enforcement officer, expect to be met with force."
Mutchler also called out the "criminal element" in Louisville, writing that police "do not fear you" and "will not simply stand by and accept your verbal or physical assaults." It bears a reminder that verbally accosting a police officer, while stupid and rude, is not technically a criminal offense -- though Mutchler implied police in Louisville will be treating it as such.
Mutchler then went on to defend police use of force.
"If you actively resist or assault us, we will use every option available to take you into custody," he wrote. "If you use deadly force against us or use or attempt to use a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon against us, we will use deadly force against you and we WILL stop the threat to us, our fellow officers or the citizens we serve."
Mutchler's emphatically worded response did not reference a specific instance of backlash against police, and he did not immediately respond to a HuffPost request for comment.
Police unions typically serve as the mouthpiece for -- and are outspoken in defense of -- local law enforcement. Following a recent federal agreement for reforms in the Cleveland Police Department, for example, the city's Police Patrolman's Association suggested outright that a measure to require officers to complete a report each time he or she points a gun at a suspect was "going to get somebody killed."
Even if Mutchler is worried about widespread protests in Louisville over police brutality, Manyoun's death doesn't seem likely to catalyze the same sort of movement seen in other cities following police shootings. Neal Robertson, coordinator of the West Louisville Urban Coalition, even went so far as to tell WHAS the shooting appears justified and that activists shouldn't hold up the incident as a civil rights issue.
While Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has supported the police department's handling of Manyoun's shooting, on Thursday he said in a statement that Mutchler's letter "does not reflect the sentiments of me or the vast majority of Louisville's citizens, who know that we are all on the same page, working to build safe and strong communities for all of our families."
Conrad was similarly dismissive of Mutchler's tone in a statement released Friday.
"My most important job is to protect and serve the citizens of Louisville, and I do not believe this serves the interest of the community," he said. "To this end, we must always treat everyone with respect and dignity. By doing so, we earn their trust, which is essential to our success in policing this great community. We have seen far too much violence over the past few months! Now is the time for all of us to work together to truly make Louisville the kind of community we all want it to be."
Read the letter below: