THE ASSOCIATED PRESS — Three Kentucky Democrats running for the U.S. Senate delved into the unrest embroiling the state’s largest city during a televised debate Monday night.
Appearing on Kentucky Education Television, two of the contenders, Charles Booker and Mike Broihier, said National Guard soldiers should be pulled back after a fatal shooting while police officers and Guard soldiers were enforcing a curfew in Louisville.
The decision to call in the Guard was made by a fellow Democrat, Gov. Andy Beshear, in an effort to quell violence amid a series of protests in Kentucky’s largest city.
Booker, a state lawmaker from Louisville, said the Guard was sent in “like a military force as if they are at war with taxpaying citizens.” He said there are many good people in law enforcement but said the Guard’s presence escalated tensions in Louisville.
"They took an adversarial posture, a confrontational posture to people that are hurting and demanding to be accounted for,” he said.
Broihier also said he thinks the guardsmen should be called off, saying they were placed in a “very sensitive and difficult operation.”
Broihier called for a demilitarization of police forces.
You can start the process by stopping selling military equipment to police forces,” he said. “There’s just no reason that a municipal police department or county police department needs to have armored vehicles. It sets the wrong mindset. And the police they think they’re at war. In war you need an enemy. And the enemy, sadly, too many times, are African-Americans.”
Booker called for stronger links between police forces and communities as well as greater accountability, including citizen review boards with subpoena power.
Amy McGrath, widely seen as the frontrunner in the Democratic race, called for a “command climate” in police forces in which the actions of subordinate reflect on their leaders.
The three contenders are among a number of Democrats running for their party’s nomination in the June 23 primary and the chance to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November.