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Increasing self-initiated traffic stops among violence solutions discussed by LMPD chief

Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 6:31 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - A weekend of violence continued to put Louisville on pace to count a record number of homicides.

How to curb that deadly momentum was a question talked about in length in LMPD’s newly launched podcast released Friday.

After introductions, Chief Erika Shields and co-host officer Matt Sanders, who has worked with the department’s public information office, began discussing the problem.

“The pace at which we’re seeing homicides is absolutely unacceptable,” Shields said during the recorded video posted to YouTube.

When Sanders brought up criticism related to the speed in which investigations are closed or the rate they are being solved in total, Shields laid out the challenges the department is facing.

Among what was mentioned were issues related to staffing and a lack of cooperation from witnesses or a fear of retaliation among them.

Shields also noted a DNA evidence processing backlog at the state lab that’s delaying investigations.

“Right now, the lag time to get DNA tested is a couple of years,” Shields said. “That’s huge because every time that you have someone, who is not arrested for homicide, there is obviously a likelihood they will kill again.”

Shields said the department is seeking funding to outsource samples for quicker turn around.

The chief listed several other aspects of policing, which she believed could decrease violent crime in Louisville.

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LMPD traffic stop statistics over the past decade. (Source: LMPD)
LMPD traffic stop statistics over the past decade. (Source: LMPD)(LMPD)

She said raising department standards, getting illegal guns off the street and improving gang intelligence will be important to solving the problem.

Shields also stated it was important to encourage officers to be proactive enforcing crime, including during traffic stops.

“In August 2019, there was a series of traffic stops, where the department was accused of or engaged in racial profiling,” Shields said. “Rather than just direct, address the issue, the training and the officers, it appears that there was an edict given, don’t do traffic.”

Six new traffic stop polices were implemented on August 1, 2019 by then Chief Steve Conrad. Conrad said part of the motivation behind the changes was to attempt to conduct traffic stops free from bias.

Among the changes were that nervous behavior in a high-crime area was not enough reason for a stop.

On the podcast, Shields said an August 2019 ‘edict’ to ‘don’t do traffic’ impacted policing.

“The problem with that is that its now morphed into don’t be self initiated,” she said. “There is a direct correlation between when the officers are not initiating enforcement and crime spikes.”

Data from LMPD shows traffic stops in 2020 were the lowest they’ve been in the past decade. 2021 statistics are playing out similarly.

That period also marked a policy change where LMPD did not respond to non-injury accidents due to the pandemic.

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