FOP: Staffing Louisville's special events diverts officers, makes city less safe

FOP: Protecting Louisville's guests diverts officers, makes Metro less safe

. - LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In fewer than five days, LMPD's officers' union has shifted the pushback to Chief Steve Conrad's staffing reorganization from a vote of no confidence in the man and his plan, to the mantra, "too few in blue, doing too much."

"We have dozens and dozens of private events that are receiving free security from Louisville Metro Police officers who are on duty," Dave Mutchler, President of the River City Fraternal Order of Police said. "The reason the Department feels it has to disband our FLEX units is because we don't have enough people to say we want to beef this up."

The FLEX units have been the ground-level troops in LMPD's fight against gang violence and drug traffickers. Conrad has proposed shifting most of their 55 members to a strengthened narcotics unit and to a full-time SWAT team.

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"We need both. We need manpower," David James (D-District 6), who chairs Metro Council's Public Safety Committee, said. "We're taking police officers off of the streets in order to do these special events.

Neither James nor Mutchler disputes the need for all hands on deck during the Kentucky Derby Festival and for the services and funeral procession following the death of Muhammad Ali.

Officers were able to apprehend two juvenile suspects quickly when two teenagers suffered gunshot wounds at the Pegasus Parade on May 4. Ali's passing captured a worldwide audience, who witnessed violent crime declare a cease fire in the seven days from his death to burial.

"But there are dozens of events where sponsors are paying half the cost, or none of it, and it's taking officers way from their regular duties," Mutchler told WAVE 3 News on Monday.

He was compiling a list of such events, as well as the manpower allocated and its costs, using open records requests.  He plans to make his case when James' council committee meets Wednesday afternoon.

"It doesn't just affect that day," Mutchler said. "I'm not at work when I'm supposed to be at work later in the week, because you have to give me an off-day."

"I can't tell you whether we need 300 more officers, which is what comparable-sized cities have," James said. "I can tell you we need at least fifty now."  

A spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer referred all questions regarding paying for protection back to LMPD.  But, in a written statement, Fischer is quoted as praising Conrad's "proactive approach to making our city safer."

"Chief Conrad's staffing changes will provide more resources in the neighborhoods seeing a spike in crime," the statement read.

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Who should pay is a valid question, Mutchler and James agreed.

"There is an influx of money spent here when these things happen," Mutchler said. "But at what cost?"

"Do we look at raising a tax or creating a tax?" James asked. "Maybe there's a case to be made for a public safety tax. We see the toll the crime is taking."

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