LMPD prepares to make cuts to specialty units, raising concerns about public safety

LMPD prepares to make cuts to specialty units, raising concerns about public safety

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Louisville's Police Department is reducing its specialty units, WAVE 3 News has learned.

The move is part of an effort to get more officers on patrol, LMPD spokeswoman Jessie Halladay said.

The department would not confirm how many of those specialty positions -- in units such as SWAT, Major Crimes and Traffic, to name a few -- will be cut Thursday. Halladay said the number of cuts have not yet been made public to their officers.

LMPD Chief Steve Conrad recently announced the merger of Special Operations and Community Services and the 9th Mobile Division, who drive around the city looking for drugs and illegal guns, and the Narcotics Division.

But now, Halladay said every unit in the department will be affected by the reductions in some way.

WAVE 3 News also learned that officers, including detectives, will have to re-apply for their positions during the reduction process. If they don’t make the cut, they face going back to patrol divisions.

Detectives who do stay in their positions face higher caseloads.

The changes have officers worried not only about their jobs, but also about how the public will be affected.

Nicolai Jilek, the President of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the department can’t do much more with less.

“We have a police department that is already overtaxed,” Jilek said, adding that working criminal cases takes a lot of time and attention that officers just won’t have. “We’re lowering the number of officers and detectives to confront crime, but the crime is not going down.”

In a recent report, WAVE 3 News confirmed that the number of shootings and homicides are up this year over last. The statistics are a reflection of a record-breaking trend in the last few years, when Louisville’s homicide rate was the highest it had ever been.

Jilek said the public will take a hit from the changes because the department is not hiring officers at the same rate that they are leaving.

A recent WAVE 3 News Troubleshooter investigation discovered that LMPD lost 15 percent of its officers in a little more than a year. A number of officers WAVE 3 News spoke to off the record blamed low morale within the department as their reason for leaving. The department has blamed the record-breaking resignations and retirements mainly on other factors like the pension crisis, leading to budget cuts and nearby agencies offering higher pay and better benefits.

“Louisville is growing,” Jilek said. “We are constantly trying to attract new business, new jobs, new residents. More people means more crime, and the math just doesn’t add up.”

Halladay said Conrad trying to minimize the impact the smaller workforce will have on the public, but recognizes that the public will be affected.

“We are doing more with less,” Halladay said. “As we decrease in numbers, everyone will be impacted.”

Halladay also said that’s what happens with every corporate downsizing.

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