LOUISVILLE — A finalist for inspector general has been chosen from more than 100 applicants to lead the city’s 11-member Police Civilian Review and Accountability Board, pending approval from Metro Council.
Edward Harness, recommended by both the board and mayor, has been the executive director of the city of Albuquerque’s Civilian Police Oversight Agency for six years.
He’ll report to Louisville’s civilian review board and be responsible for establishing the internal organization of the office, including policies, procedure, staffing and training.
“I’ll be a staunch advocate for the oversight process,” Harness told the board Tuesday. “That means there will be conflict on both sides, but I’ll work collaboratively and always be true to the process. I look forward to the challenge.”
The review board, which was approved by Metro Council about a year ago, is empowered to initiate investigations by a simple majority vote.
The inspector general will be able to investigate allegations of police misconduct and review the quality and adequacy of final reports and closed internal affairs investigations into police killings, but the chief will remain the only authority able to discipline officers.
The board and inspector general also will be able to make recommendations based on the existing policies, operations and procedures.
Harness’ salary will be $150,000, which is the pay level of a Louisville Metro director.
Per the ordinance, Harness would serve a four-year term and could be reappointed for two additional successive terms by the mayor upon review of the board and Metro Council approval. Louisville officials on Tuesday said Metro Council will likely vote next month.
Harness’ last day in Albuquerque is Nov. 15. His staff there includes four investigators.
“My experiences in Albuquerque show me that I need to ensure I’m out and speaking with and listening to members of the community and hearing what their concerns are,” Harness told Louisville’s civilian review board. “And in the same vein, I will be asking and listening to the same questions from the police department. And then I will move forward with the initiatives as the accountability board wants me to.”
On Friday, Harness announced his resignation to the Albuquerque police oversight board, condemning members for opening his position to new applicants without consulting him, stakeholders or the Department of Justice, which has been overseeing the city’s police department since 2014, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The Albuquerque Journal reported Harness had asked for a third three-year term, but the board wanted the job description to be posted and publicly announced that the current director apply.
Harness, when he told the board he was resigning Friday, said his leadership has helped “restored trust to its rightful place as a meaningful oversight body” and that his job isn’t a “plug-and-play position.”
A resume provided by the city shows that Harness worked as an attorney for 14 years before joining Albuquerque’s police oversight agency in October 2015. That agency was tasked with investigating civilian complaints and reviewing and monitoring internal affairs investigations, according to his resume.
It also notes that Harness is a “certified practitioner” of civilian police oversight by NACOLE, the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement.
A news release from Mayor Greg Fischer’s office says Harness worked for 12 years as a police officer in Milwaukee, where he also “provided oversight of law enforcement as a volunteer police commissioner.”
He’s also a former police commissioner of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.
“Ed’s leadership background and his set of unique life experiences will no doubt help us to strengthen the trust between our residents and our police officers, and move us a step further in achieving our goals of racial justice and equity,” Fischer said in the release.
Metro Council member Paula McCraney, who co-led a working group that spent more than six months studying and establishing a framework for the review board, said any of the final three candidates selected by the board would have done a great job, but their first choice was Harness.
She said his skill set and experience will be an asset for Louisville.
“His mannerisms, his coolness, his ability to answer the questions and have that experience he brings to the table is very fortunate for us. I did not think that we would be so lucky,” she said.
Reporter Darcy Costello contributed to this story.
Kala Kachmar is an investigative reporter. Reach her at 502-582-4469; firstname.lastname@example.org or @NewsQuip on Twitter. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: www.courier-journal.com/subscribe.