Louisville Police Chief Robert White is working with prosecutors and others to hold officers more accountable for missed court appearances that have let hundreds of defendants charged with serious crimes go free, says the Louisville Courier-Journal. Mayor Jerry Abramson will fund an electronic subpoena system to ensure officers receive timely notification of court hearings, replacing a ponderous paper system that often failed to promptly notify officers — if at all — of their appearances. Those are two actions officials are taking after last month’s Courier-Journal series showing that more than 600 felony defendants were set free in 2007 because Louisville officers failed to appear for district court hearings.
The newspaper found that at least 300 of the department’s approximately 1,200 officers had at least one felony case dismissed because they failed to appear, even though police policy and Kentucky law require them to attend court after receiving subpoenas. White has increased internal reporting and monitoring of missed appearances and is requiring more scrutiny of officers’ reasons for absences. He also is taking steps to eliminate “first call” subpoenas in traffic and misdemeanor cases. As a result, officers wouldn’t have to come to court for the initial hearings in these cases, which police say would reduce the subpoena load by about 30 percent and save money by reducing court pay — without affecting case outcomes. In the past three weeks, the number of Louisville officers appearing in court has risen dramatically, resulting in faster case dispositions and fewer dismissals, judges and prosecutors said.