Metro Council questions LMPD chief over traffic stop policy

Council grills LMPD chief over policies on profiling, traffic stops

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad was grilled for hours by members of the Metro Council on Tuesday night about a traffic stop that’s gone viral.

It shows a black teenager who was pulled over last August for a wide turn.

Tae-Ahn Lea addressed Metro Council. (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Tae-Ahn Lea addressed Metro Council. (Source: WAVE 3 News)

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Some said the police body camera video shows he was unfairly profiled and intimidated. That teen, Tae-Ahn Lea, was also at the special meeting Tuesday.

Council members asked the chief if policies the department is using specifically target west Louisville or profile certain people by their race.

“If there is a policy, why does such a policy exist,” Councilwoman Jessica Green (D-District 1) said.

The chief's response to that first question he received on the topic was simple.

“No, ma’am,” Conrad said. “There is no such policy.”

Councilman Bill Hollander (D-District 9) said police leaders have told him via email they’re instructing their officers to use aggressive policing tactics that include more traffic stops.

Lea addressed Metro Council, providing more context to the controversial traffic stop video. He said he felt unfairly targeted by police when he went to buy a slushie and use the ATM.

“He gave me the look like, it’s going to be a problem,” Lea said.

Lea said police presence grew to three officers just before he left a gas station, and then he was pulled over for making a wide turn -- a charge that would later be dropped.

His car was then searched for drugs by K-9 units. No drugs were reported as found.

“According to him, they called for back up before they ever pulled him over,” Councilman James Peden (R-District 23) said. “Tell us more that makes that traffic stop not look as horrendous as it really was.”

Conrad said he can’t specifically comment on the Lea traffic stop because an internal investigation is ongoing.

“Because state law prohibited me from being able to talk about Mr. Lea’s case with any specifics, I think maybe some left with the impression that we don’t get it,” Conrad said. “We absolutely do get it.”

Peden fired back at Conrad after the answer regarding an inability to speak due to state law.

“Why? It’s a closed case, it was dismissed,” Peden said. “The kid is sitting there right now and would probably like to hear a story.”

Metro Council members also asked how many others in west Louisville experienced the same thing.

Metro Council President David James said African-American officers have reached out to him regarding the department’s policies.

“They’re very upset about the policy the police department is exercising in west Louisville in traffic stops,” James said.

Conrad said he has not been made aware of complaints made by African-American officers.

The chief said the department is targeting specific areas as part of a strategy to stop violent crimes. He said police target violent places, people and narcotics. Some of those places targeted are in west Louisville, but the area doesn’t encompass the entire West End, he said.

It’s a strategy Conrad said has yielded the seizure of hundreds of guns and would be perilous to take away, noting seven murders in the city this month.

Council members said they want the department to make sure its not alienating an entire part of town while doing that.

“If you don’t do anything wrong, then you don’t have anything to worry about, but that’s obviously not true in this situation,” Lea said, regarding the traffic stop in which he was involved.

Some questioned Conrad’s leadership. Conrad said the department will review its policies related to traffic stops, as it does annually, but will include feedback from Tuesday’s meeting.

He also agreed to continue implicit bias training for officers, now on an annual basis.

The group CLOUT also spoke at the special Metro Council committee meeting about the topic of de-escalation, particularly how officers deal with people facing addiction and mental illness, and how use of force investigations are carried out.

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