LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - After 40 years in law enforcement, Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad announced he will retire at the end of June.
Conrad started his career with the Louisville Division of Police in 1980. He served as assistant chief overseeing the merger in 2003 that created LMPD. In 2005, he left LMPD to become police chief in Glendale, AZ. He returned to Louisville to serve as chief in 2012.
Conrad announced his plans to retire on Thursday in an email to his officers, encouraging them to “look out for each other. Show compassion to the community, even when it might not be shown to you. And remember what a privilege this job is.”
In his 33 years in law enforcement in Louisville, he worked along side hundreds of officers.
Bill Weedman, now a chaplain for LMPD, started working with Conrad in 2003, when the city and the county were merging. Weedman was a captain for the Jefferson County Police Department. Weedman said he and Conrad were chosen to be apart of the administrative staff for the police chief at that time.
Weedman recalled being sad when Conrad left for Arizona in 2005.
“I told him he was just a man of integrity,” Weedman told WAVE 3 News. “I haven’t met too many men that he is just honest in everything he does in all walks of life. If Steve Conrad told you something, you would know it was going to be true.
“And if he couldn't tell you something he would tell you honestly I just can't tell you right now. He would never on the side wink, wink and say something. You just don't meet too many men like that-- who is the same behind the stage as he is in front of the stage.”
Weedman said when he received Conrad’s email to the department today announcing his retirement, he was sad, but not surprised. He believes Conrad’s decision is more about a long, full 40-year career, than any controversy.
“You're not going to spend a position in 8 years and not have some major controversy and some things that happen along the way,” Weedman said. “So if he were going to leave for a controversy, he would have left on the first one. I just see this as he met a milestone of his career.”
Greg Gitschier, also a volunteer chaplain for the department, has known Conrad for about 20 years.
He recalls seeing Conrad around in their early years as officers. They didn’t work with each other much until Gitschier came back from working with the Secret Service. Gitschier later worked security for Mayor Fischer.
“I remember Mayor Fischer was doing the chief's search and talking to Steve in the office,” Gitschier recalled. “I was very happy to see him get the job.”
He told WAVE 3 News he was surprised to hear of Conrad’s announcement to retired.
“I just feel like being the chief of police is such a tough position because you know it’s like being a referee. You can’t every make the call that’s going to make everyone happy,” Gitschier said. “He’s always kind of under the scrutiny. It’s a very tough job and I admire I know Steve as a good person that probably tried the best he could, and things certainly seem to be adding up against him lately.”
In his 8 years as Chief, Conrad has overseen a department that has been criticized amid numerous scandals and lawsuits. Several years ago, the FOP voted in not having confidence in him. In 2019, he took heat for comments about officer morale.
Some critics wonder why Conrad's retirement hadn't come earlier.
“My first thought is this is long overdue,” Attorney Tad Thomas told WAVE 3 News.
Thomas serves as counsel for seven victims of sexual abuse in the LMPD Explorer Program.
“This is something I would've hoped the mayor would have asked for his resignation years ago, not only because of the events that occurred in the explorer program, but a lot of other things that have occured in the LMPD while Chief Conrad has been in charge,” Thomas said.
Thomas believes the community needs a change of police leadership.
“What I would like to see as a representative of victim’s of sexual abuse is someone who is going to take a hard stance regarding misconduct within the police department,” Thomas said.
Metro Council President David James said Thursday afternoon he was pleased to hear about Conrad’s announcement.
"I would say Chief Conrad is a nice man. He is a good gentleman, a good father, good husband," James said. "And I've often said he’s a good guy. I just don’t believe that points in times when things happened he was the right fit for this police department and this city."
James said he is hopeful the next chief is someone who makes an effort to reconnect with the community and the officers to help propel the city forward.
“Chief Conrad’s tenure was filled with a lot of controversy and it has effected the police department and citizens in our community,” James said. “So I think it's a good time for him to retire to help the city and police department move forward.”
Conrad will continue to serve as chief until June 30. Col. Robert Schroeder will serve as Interim Chief following Conrad’s departure, while the city searches for a new chief.