Citing large numbers of murder and assault, dwindling officers and frustrating laws, Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad asked council members for help on Wednesday.
Conrad’s appearance before the Metro Council Public Safety Committee was the first time he’s appeared before the committee since they expressed no-confidence in the chief months earlier, asking Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to urge Conrad to resign.
Conrad said crime is down this year, but aggravated assaults increased and the number of homicides in Louisville have climbed to surpass other years with the exception of 2016. He said victims are typically younger and the deaths most often come from gunshot wounds. The chief also said that many of the alleged perpetrators are under the age of 21.
“The number of young people involved in these violent crimes, I believe, reinforces the importance of the community coming together to find solutions to help young people find ways to not get involved in crime,” Conrad said. “And while I’m glad that the crime numbers are lower, I am heartbroken that all of these numbers — and in particular the homicide numbers — are not significantly lower.”
Conrad defended his departments’ efforts, saying there have been more arrests and citations this year. He attributes the uptick in arrests to additional officers on the streets working overtime. According to a report from WDRB, LMPD received money from the government to pay for additional overtime and spent most of it within months.
Some shootings, Conrad said, involved stolen guns. LMPD data show more than half of the guns police recovered this year were from convicted felons. Conrad said council members could advocate increasing punishments for people convicted of a second felony, and for legislators to let local governments enact their own gun laws.
“I’m not looking to control who has a gun beyond what state law allows us to do, but I think there should be requirements on safe storage for guns,” Conrad said. He also suggested that police destroy seized guns instead of sending them for auction as required by state law.
“Those are two areas where we could really use your help as we head into the upcoming legislative session,” he said.
Conrad said he wants to hire more officers; he said many are retiring or resigning. He said many of those officers worry about proposed pension changes coming to the state, and that 98 people have left the department so far this fiscal year.
Conrad said during the last budgeting process, the council granted him partial funding for hiring officers. He wants to hire 48 from each of the upcoming recruiting classes to deal with the officers leaving.