Outgoing LMPD Interim Chief Rob Schroeder testifies before Metro Gov’t
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Just days before retirement, LMPD Interim Chief Rob Schroeder testified Monday before the Metro Government Oversight & Audit Committee about a variety of topics.
Twice in recent months, Schroeder and Public Safety Chief Amy Hess appealed subpoenas requiring them to testify before the committee. They said they’d testify in executive session but not in an open-court environment.
Monday, however, a judge denied Schroeder’s last appeal, forcing the outgoing interim chief to testify at an afternoon hearing.
Schroeder, who took over for fired LMPD Chief Steve Conrad on June 1, said beginning his new tenure just four days after Breonna Taylor protests began was “destabilizing” to the department.
Taylor, 26, was shot dead by LMPD officers during a narcotics raid at her Louisville apartment in March. Her death has sparked more than 120 days of protests and a national outcry demanding police reform.
Brent Ackerson, the chair of the Metro Government Oversight & Audit Committee, began his inquiry shortly after 1:30 p.m. About an hour in, Ackerson asked Schroeder when and why he started thinking about retiring.
“That’s been something that’s been weighing on me for a while,” Schroeder said. “I haven’t gotten a lot of hours of sleep since June 1.”
Schroeder, whose last day on the job is scheduled for Thursday, added that the job has caused him and his family stress, affected his health, and even caused him to stop working on his doctorate degree. He said his original retirement date was going to be Sept. 1, but Mayor Greg Fischer asked him to stay on another month.
The interim chief said he was not heavily involved in the city’s discussions with Taylor’s family to pay them $12 million. Part of that settlement included a host of police reforms, two of which -- how the department handles money and executes search warrants -- Schroeder said he chimed in on.
At one point, Schroeder urged the council to consider how it has treated officers, making them feel unappreciated. One example he gave was when he was asked if the police force had lost faith in Fischer’s ability to lead the city.
“In mid-September, we released video of protesters going down 4th Street overturning tables ... and after the release, the mayor asked if LMPD had intentionally doctored video released by the department,” Schroeder said.
The interim chief also affirmed there was no stand-down order given over looting.
Schroeder said he was not a part of conversations about Conrad’s termination following the National Guard shooting death of David McAtee on June 1. Already facing heavy criticism for the Taylor killing, Conrad was fired hours after McAtee’s death.
Schroeder said he thought Conrad was fired because the LMPD officers present at the time McAtee was shot did not have their body cameras turned on.
When asked if their body cameras were not turned on because the batteries may have been dead, Schroeder said he couldn’t respond because his “answer could influence how an officer would testify in the future.” Schroeder says there were body cameras active but was quickly cut off by his attorney. He then said he could not speak on an open investigation.
He also said he and other command staff members, in his first days on the job, shared their contact information with several protest leaders in an attempt to facilitate open communication.
Some questions were thrown at Schroeder about Thursday night’s arrest of State Representative Attica Scott, who was charged with felony rioting after someone threw a flare through the window of the Main Library downtown last week.
“The charge of riot does not necessarily require individual action, it requires being with that group of folks that are causing that,” Schroeder said.
Other new developments included whether Sgt. Jon Mattingly would be reprimanded for a recent controversial email sent out to the entire police department. Schroeder said it will be investigated.
He also shed light on how the officer who shot WAVE 3 Photojournalist James Dobson and Reporter Kaitlin Rust with pepper balls is under both criminal and administrative investigation, one of 20 PSU and 5 PIU investigations currently open regarding the protests.
Committee Chair Brent Ackerson asked Schroeder if there is anything he thinks the department needs to work on.
Schroeder’s response was accountability.
“I’m very proud of the police department,” Schroeder said. “I don’t mean that as a criticism of the police dept overall, it’s just one of the things that I’ve seen has risen over the years. Just a few years ago LMPD was recognized as one of the most progressive and advanced police departments.”
Copyright 2020 WAVE 3 News. All rights reserved.