LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Officer departures dominate LMPD budget hearing


The Louisville Metro Police department says it's seeing more officers leaving the department for better paying jobs.

During a Metro Council budget hearing, Chief Steve Conrad called this fiscal year's budget his most challenging yet. The chief appeared before the Budget Committee to take questions over the recommended $179 million dollar budget for 2020-2021.

LMPD is facing increased costs from the COVID-19 pandemic and an almost 24% increase in violent crime, according to Conrad.

"As of today, we have had 44 homicides in our community versus 27 on this date last year. We have had also 134 non-fatal shootings compared with 72 on this day last year," Conrad said.

What's making the challenges facing LMPD even more difficult is the number of officers leaving the department.

"As of the end of April, we've lost a total of 133 officers," Conrad said.

According to Conrad, 68 of those officers retired, four were terminated and 61 resigned -- of those resignations 46 went to other departments.

Conrad says most of them left for better pay.

"We're not competitive at any level. We're not even competitive internally," Conrad said.

According to Conrad, starting salary for metro police officers is $39,200. Metro firefighters starting salary is $48,200 more. Code enforcement officers start at $40,100.

Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith added that even Metro Council members are paid more.

"It is absolutely unbelievable that your Metro Council members including myself are compensated as a new council member higher than a new police officer," Sexton Smith said.

The department expects to lose 14 more officers over the next two months and another 119 are expected to reach retirement age in the second half of the year.

"We are losing some of our best and brightest to these area departments who can pay more," Conrad said.

Contract negotiations with the FOP representing officers have been going on for three years now with no deal in sight.

"I don't know how you in good faith come up with a contract that may cost you a significantly more amount of money and not have the conversation about where you're going to take money from to help cover that cost," Conrad said.

Metro Council members agreed finding the funds needs to be a top priority.

"We need to find that money this year. That needs to be our sole objective through this budget to find it," Councilman Anthony Piagentini said.

Finding that money could prove challenging. In April, Mayor Greg Fischer asked the council to approve a "continuation budget" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has already cost LMPD more than $900,000 in overtime and personal protection equipment, according to Conrad.

Right now, the department is asking the council to approve three recruitment classes, to help make up for the officer losses. It hopes to hire 48 officers from each class.