Following Conrad’s comments, officers, experts consider who’s responsible for morale

Who should be responsible for LMPD staff morale?

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said morale was the officers’ responsibility and not his, he then took it back in an apology.

WAVE 3 News on Thursday wondered who is actually responsible for morale inside a company, an institution, or a police department?

If there is a morale problem, certainly disgruntled employees can contribute to the issue, but experts and former officers believe a change of the culture, whether it’s positive or negative, comes from the top.

“The culture of LMPD is one of agreeing with the chief and agreeing with the mayor,” said former LMPD officer Skylar Graudick, who’s been a vocal critic of Conrad.

Wednesday, Conrad twice gave Metro Council his take on morale.

“My morale every day is my responsibility, it is the same for each and every one of us,” Conrad said.

Graudick said he understands Conrad faces public pressure amid exiting officers, scandals, criticism over traffic stops, and acknowledges that while the chief did apologize, he believes Conrad’s initial statement is what he was really thinking.

“He’s completely out of touch with his job responsibilities and the realities of police work,” Graudick said.

“The leader is the one who sets the tone for the organization,” said Jared Law-Penrose, a professor of management with IU-Southeast.

Law-Penrose said anyone can stumble when on the hot seat, but a second comment from Conrad was a mistake when he said, “Our sergeants have more impact on the morale of our patrol officers.”

“The supervisors, the day to day, have a big role to play in that, certainly,” Law-Penrose said. “But it’s the leader who sets the tone for the organization.”

Retired Maj. Jimmy Harper, another Conrad critic, told WAVE 3 News that the chief’s attempt to lay the blame on sergeants is evidence of his own shortcomings in leadership.

If culture dictates performance, and if officers who put their lives on the line aren’t feeling supported, the chief must figure out how to connect, Law-Penrose said.

“When you understand their struggles and when you understand their challenges, both at work on the job and outside of work, that goes a long way,” he said.

Conrad has weathered many controversies. He received a vote of no confidence by officers through the FOP in 2016 and by the Metro Council in 2017. In his apology, he said his comment was unfair. He told officers, “I respect each of you, you do an amazing job.”

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