Police chief, mayor take stand in LMPD whistleblower case

Testimony begins in LMPD whistleblower case with police chief, mayor
Updated: Aug. 8, 2018 at 9:34 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Testimony began Wednesday in the case of a former Louisville Metro Police Department officer who calls himself a whistleblower.

Former commander turned lieutenant, Jimmy Harper, is suing the city, claiming he was demoted in retaliation for criticizing LMPD Chief Steve Conrad and talking about it with other city officials.

Harper's attorney, Tom Clay, told jurors this is a case of, "if you're not on Chief Conrad's team, you'll suffer the consequences."

Assistant County Attorney Peter Ervin argued that instead, this is a simple case of an angry police officer -- one who worked with Metro Council President David James to try to get the police chief fired.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was first to take the stand after opening statements.

Clay asked the mayor about a 2016 conversation with Harper at a festival in Shawnee Park. It happened one day after a decision was made by the chief to get rid of the Flex Platoon.

Fischer, who testified he believes Conrad has done a good job and is a good man, said Harper approached him at that public venue and was critical of the chief's decision.

The mayor said he thought it was unusual that Harper did not follow the chain of command.

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"Once a decision is made everybody's expected to carry that decision out, so I was surprised by his 'vocalness' about his disagreement with it," Fischer told the court.

The mayor then said he told Deputy Mayor Ellen Hesen his concern that Harper, who at the time was a major, was talking outside of the chain of command. He testified Hesen later said something to Chief Conrad about it.

Once Conrad took the stand, he also addressed the conversation.

"I was frustrated hearing he had taken this issue up with the mayor," Conrad testified. "What I said to Miss Hesen was, 'I have half a mind to demote the guy now, but I'm sure he'll run out, claim some violation of whistleblower.'"

Conrad said he didn't think Harper was doing "all that good of a job" before he dismantled the Flex Platoon, but after his work got even worse.

The chief admitted the conversation Harper had with Fischer was a "material factor in (his) decision to demote Major Harper."

Harper's attorney tried to show jurors they can't trust Chief Conrad.

Clay used documents from the 1990s to try to show Conrad has a history of being untruthful.

>> EXCLUSIVE: Hidden document sheds new light on 1998 investigation into LMPD chief's conduct

During an investigation into another officer, Conrad -- a commander at the time -- said he paid overtime only for hours actually worked. The documents show that the next day he admitted he had been untruthful, wrote himself up and the chief at the time decided not to discipline him.

This is how that played out in court Wednesday:

Clay: "Chief Conrad isn't it true sir that you gave a false statement to those investigators to whether those officers paid overtime were working other than their other duty hours, isn't that true sir?"
Conrad: "What I gave was..."
Clay: "Is that true sir, yes or no?"
Conrad: "What I gave was an incomplete answer."
Clay: "Actually what you gave was a false answer sir."

Conrad explained the overtime was offered to officers during a crack epidemic to come up with scheduling and other ideas to help with the spike in crime.

During other testimony, the city claimed Metro Councilman David James worked with Harper to make the chief look bad.

Fischer said after James accused Conrad of lying in a news conference, he asked for proof and James handed him a binder of public materials that supported his view.

Fischer said James has a long-running history of saying negative things about Conrad.

The deputy mayor was asked if James told her, "get rid of the chief or I'll make your life miserable."

She answered yes.

Testimony will continue Thursday.

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