Louisville police union says understaffing will cause 'big troub - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville police union says understaffing will cause 'big trouble'

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FOP President Dave Mutchler (left) and LMPD Police Chief Steve Conrad (right) FOP President Dave Mutchler (left) and LMPD Police Chief Steve Conrad (right)
Council President Jim King Council President Jim King
Councilman Jerry Miller Councilman Jerry Miller

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Louisville Metro police will run into big trouble if department leaders don't hire dozens of police officers to increase staffing levels, according to the president of the police union.

Fraternal Order of Police President Dave Mutchler disagreed with Police Chief Steve Conrad several times on Wednesday, as Metro Council members peppered the two men with questions relating to recent violence downtown.

"We have people who want to know, do we need more police officers? We don't even have the police officers that we should have," Mutchler said. "It doesn't matter what we talk about, it all boils down to the budget."

Police need to hire 112 more officers to return staffing to the authorized full-strength level, Mutchler said. The problem is worse among patrol officers, which are perhaps 20 percent understaffed, he said.

Conrad agreed the department does have vacancies and said he will hire more officers this year than just simply replacing retiring members of the force.

But the staffing problem is not nearly as severe as Mutchler claimed, Conrad said.

"I'm not even sure what he said, to be honest with you," Conrad said after a special meeting of the Council's Public Safety Committee. "Clearly, we have issues. We're working proactively to address those issues, and there's more work yet to be done."

Besides hiring an yet-unsettled number of officers, Conrad said he also plans to add a police substation near Fourth Street downtown.

In addition, 26 new Waterfront Park surveillance cameras are now working and corrections officers will monitor them, Conrad said. Metro Police staff could take over that duty as early as July, he said.

Conrad has repeatedly said the March 22 mob violence, in which a group of teenagers terrorized downtown by assaulting and robbing passersby, was a one-time incident and isn't part of a larger crime wave.

Not true, Mutchler told council members.

"It's not a new thing. We've been dealing with it for years and years," he said, remembering that he routinely booted teenagers out of downtown while a patrol officer years ago.

Both Mutchler and Conrad said Louisville's curfew ordinance is too weak to deal with minors who gather after dark.

State law prohibits a police officer from taking curfew violators into custody, Conrad said.

"All he can do is direct that child to go home," he said.

Conrad said he was working with the Jefferson County attorney's office to find out what officers can legally do -- whether that's having the ability to change curfew hours during a crime wave or restricting certain areas of the city after dark.

Council members said they were concerned to learn that mob violence was an ongoing issue.

"This issue's not new, but just because it happened to spill east of Ninth Street, it's become front page news and talk show fodder," said Councilman Jerry Miller, a Republican.

Council President Jim King, a Democrat, said the council was committed to funding public safety needs.

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