Investigative journalism is one of the Courier Journal’s key missions, illuminating critical issues and often inspiring action and change.
Already in 2021, we explored many topics that matter to our readers, including the legacy of buses in Louisville, record homicides in the city, the proliferation of guns in Kentucky, and the police murder of Breonna Taylor. .
As we move through the middle of the year, here are some of what we have highlighted:
January: Record of homicides in 2020
Last year, 173 people in Louisville were the victims of criminal homicides, according to metro police – shot, clubbed, strangled or stabbed to death. Another 20 people were killed in homicides investigated by other Jefferson County police departments or in cases that did not result in criminal charges.
The number of murders in 2020 eclipses anything Louisville has seen – erasing the previous record of 117 criminal homicides in 2016. And black men have been hit hardest.
Reporters Kala Kachmar, Lucas Aulbach and Jonathan Bullington examined some of the reasons for the violence, including its link to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also explored the search for solutions.
February: “The Last Stop: The legacy of busing in Jefferson County Public Schools”
For more than 45 years, Jefferson County Public Schools have transported students across town by bus to desegregate classrooms. Now the district plans to end a vital part of that plan, saying it is unfair to majority Black West End families.
In a multi-part series, Mandy McLaren and Olivia Krauth unveiled the myths surrounding the district’s desegregation efforts.
Among their discoveries:
- For thousands of JCPS students, the “busing” has never ended. About 6,500 West End middle and high school students – the majority of them black – are being forcibly taken by bus to suburban schools under a decades-old policy. But in 1984, the Jefferson County Board of Education voted to end forced buses for suburban students.
- JCPS ‘proposal to end bus transport is drawing support – and criticism. The proposal, which the district calls “dual residence,” would allow students in the West End to choose a neighborhood school or a suburban school. Supporters of the plan say it would end a decades-long injustice, while critics say it will end decades of integration efforts.
- Bus benefits are a mixed bag. Limited data obtained by the Courier Journal found that West End elementary students who attended East End schools performed better on state tests than their peers in West Louisville. But the difference in achievement was not large enough to close the gap with their East End classmates. Meanwhile, many community members applaud the district allocation plan to achieve more diversity in its schools.
- As white residents fled the West End, authorities have gradually closed dozens of schools or turned them into selective magnetic schools. Today, only nine neighborhood schools – or schools with no significant magnet populations – remain in the West End. Most are very separated by race and class. All but one are considered defaulters by the state.
- A part of the elementary schools of JCPS quickly reclassified. JCPS ‘nationally acclaimed elementary “cluster” system, which pairs advantaged areas with impoverished communities for the purpose of integration, fails – especially to prevent a growing rift between elemental elements in the western and western extremities. is. And greater resegregation is on the horizon.
March: Kentucky and COVID-19
Journalist Matt Mencarini explored why Kentucky fared better than most neighboring states during the pandemic.
Experts agree that no state has handled the crisis well, but Mencarini found Kentucky faring less badly than its neighbors after looking at coronavirus cases, deaths and unemployment rates, coupled with interviews with experts.
Kentucky, for example, was better able to slow the spread of the disease. While some governors issued stay-at-home orders at the start of the pandemic, Governor Andy Beshear instead issued orders to limit what residents could do outside of their homes, reducing the capacity of bars, restaurants. and stores.
Beshear also emphasized unity when he spoke about tackling the virus. Often, especially at the federal level, health messages were associated with political messages, which experts say undermine their effectiveness.
May: questionable spending disrupts Indiana airport
Reporters Jonathan Bullington and Matt Mencarini investigated questions regarding mileage and other expenses the part-time manager of the Clark County Regional Airport in Sellersburg, Indiana.
Their story exemplified the inordinate power often bestowed on small town quasi-government bodies that control public property but operate largely out of sight.
Airport Manager John Secor’s first contract with the South Central Regional Airport Authority saw him charge for the mileage he recorded during daily inspections and travel to meetings, pay him $ 250 per month for his cell phone and $ 395 per month as reimbursement for the use of a shed.
The deal he made with the airport’s board of directors increased his annual salary by $ 28,700 in 2018-2020 from an average of $ 13,400. And almost all of that extra paycheck came tax free.
But a board member’s questions about Secor’s salary and whether he really drove all the miles he spent left the leadership of the small airport in turmoil, mired in mistrust and harassed by concerns about lax accounting practices.
May: “Awash in Guns”
This three-part series from journalist Jonathan Bullington exposed how a proliferation of legal and illegal firearms flooded the streets of Louisville and beyond, and how city and state are unable – or unwilling – to keep these deadly weapons from falling into the wrong hands.
Investigative reporter Jonathan Bullington’s nearly year-long investigation drew on thousands of public documents and interviews with more than two dozen people.
Among its main conclusions:
- Thousands of guns have been reported stolen from Louisville neighborhoods over the years, stolen from unlocked cars, homes, gun stores and police. At least 1,000 stolen firearms were subsequently carried by children, seized by suicidal men or linked to crimes such as theft, drug trafficking and murder.
- Kentucky’s federally licensed gun dealers have been a constant target for gun thefts and straw buying. And only a fraction of those dealerships are inspected each year by a federal agency that perpetually struggles with stagnant budgets and staff.
- Unregulated gun transactions are flourishing online, where sellers easily bypass social media bans on private sales of guns and ammunition.
- Kentucky Police remove thousands of firearms from the streets each year. A state law remits many of them.
The results were felt most acutely in Louisville, where one person is shot every 12 hours in an almost unimaginable bloodshed epidemic inflicted disproportionately on the city’s black communities.
January-June: cover by Breonna Taylor
Since the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor by police on March 13, 2020, Courier Journal reporters including Tessa Duvall, Darcy Costello, Bailey Loosemore, Hayes Gardner and others have covered every aspect of the case that contributed to trigger racial reckoning locally and globally. Coverage of 2020 was honored in the Breaking News and Public Service categories of this year. Pulitzer Prize.
Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman and emergency room technician, was shot dead by Louisville metro police offices trying to serve a search warrant in her apartment as part of a larger narcotics investigation. After the police used a ram to force entry into Taylor’s apartment, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a shot that hit the sergeant. Jonathan Mattingly. Walker later said he believed an intruder was breaking and entering.
Three officers fired 32 rounds in response, hitting Taylor six times. She died in the hallway of her apartment without receiving medical treatment.
Here are some of our 2021 stories about Taylor, his case, and his impact on the community:
The importance of Jefferson Square: “You must remember Breonna”: how a small municipal park became the heart of a movement
Has Louisville Passed Enough Reforms? :Could Louisville Police Reforms Save Breonna Taylor?
The family continues to fight:‘We’re still angry’: Breonna Taylor’s aunt continues to fight for justice
Breonna’s Law Across America:In cities and states of the United States, Breonna’s law targets death arrest warrants
Why police reform died in Kentucky:In state where Breonna Taylor died, police reform bills fall on deaf ears
One shot was not sure:Cops shouldn’t have fired ‘one shot’ at Breonna Taylor’s home, LMPD investigator says
Did the officers minimize the risk? :LMPD investigator accused officers of intentionally downplaying risk of search of Breonna Taylor