Metro Council president says illegal street racing happening with officer shortage

Monday, WAVE contacted Louisville Metro Council President David James about the problem and the reports of minimal police response to the illegal races.
Published: Jul. 25, 2022 at 4:12 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Over the weekend, several reports came in about illegal street racing taking place across different parts of Louisville.

Some drivers told WAVE News that they called 911 after being stuck on the interstate while drivers raced each other, climbed on the concrete dividers and did doughnuts on I-264 near the airport.

Other callers reported a similar situation at 18th and Broadway.

Monday, WAVE contacted Louisville Metro Council President David James about the problem and the reports of minimal police response to the illegal races.

“A lot of people were upset, and wondering where were the police, and how come this is happening in our city,” James said. “It looks like things are totally out of control. I received several text messages and phone calls about what was going on.”

As a former officer himself, James said that the LMPD officer shortage is the reason for the increase in problems.

“It’s going to take more than one police officer,” James said. “It takes several police officers to be able to block off the exits, to make sure they can catch the people that are involved, arrest the people that are involved, tow away their vehicles, that whole thing- and it has to be a planned response.”

James put the blame on Mayor Greg Fischer for the officer shortage.

“If you have a mayor that puts in bad leadership in the police department, and then doesn’t pay the police officers what they should be paid, and they start to leave, and now we’re more than 300 officers short- this is what it looks like,” James said.

James said that LMPD is working on a plan to address street racing, and also said that other council members have reached out to the department about the problem as well.

He said the council plans to look at laws and regulations to see if stricter penalties can be put on drivers who street race.

WAVE reached out to the mayor’s office for comment and received the following statement.

“Public safety is Mayor Fischer’s No. 1 priority and this type of reckless behavior seen over the weekend is wholly unacceptable. LMPD Leadership is developing a plan to immediately address these racers’ patently illegal conduct. The Mayor has acknowledged that it’s critical that Louisville has a reform-minded police department that offers competitive compensation in order retain and attract top talent, that’s why he appointed Chief Erika Shields after a hiring process that included a unanimous recommendation from the interview panel, of which Councilman James participated in. Policing is going through a transition across the nation and Chief Shields knows the strategies and tactics needed to produce good police work in collaboration with residents and police working together. On the question of pay, the administration and Chief Shields worked with the FOP to pass a new contract for LMPD officers and sergeants that included a wage increase and other incentives, which was approved by Metro Council. Additionally, LMPD continues to actively recruit new candidates and is exploring ways to get retired officers and laterals back on the streets. The city is doing everything in its power to put well-paid, qualified and accountable officers on the street.”

LMPD also released a statement on Monday about a plan to combat street racing.

“We understand and share the community’s concern over illegal street racing. Reckless driving creates an environment where numerous, law-abiding individuals are exposed to high and unnecessary risk. The department is committed to curbing this activity, while simultaneously not creating greater risk through its enforcement efforts. To that end, the department is pulling together its resources and manpower to specifically target those engaged in illegal drag racing and mitigate the reckless behavior. Additionally, we encourage the public to report large groups of vehicles gathering by contacting LMPD, so that officers can address the issue before roadways are obstructed or used for illegal racing.”

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