Community

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad has announced reorganizations within the department that he says are designed to improve trust between police and citizens.

“Our people work hard to try to protect and serve this community,” Conrad said at a news conference Friday morning. “But there are people in this community that don’t trust us, and without this trust, we’re not going to be able to reduce crime.”

Counting Thursday night’s shootings, Conrad said there have been 84 homicides in Louisville since the beginning of the year, compared to 54 last year.

“That represents a 55, almost 56 percent increase compared to this date as of last year,” he said.

Community Services Division

Department changes include the creation of a separate Community Services Division. LMPD was awarded a Community Oriented Policing (COPS) grant to hire 10 new officers specifically tasked with relationship building in the community. Nine of these officers will serve in a Community Policing Unit, to be part of the new Community Services Division. Conrad said the officers will “focus in on some of those underlying root causes of crime, that if we leave them unchanged, those communities will continue to see problems.” He said he’d like the officers to act as a conduit between citizens in need and service providers.

“We need to heed the concerns that we’ve heard from so many people throughout this country about a lack of trust in law enforcement,” Conrad said.

The 10th officer funded by the COPS grant will work in the media and public relations office, with a specific focus on social media outreach. Citing research that people under 25 often get their news from social media, Conrad said, “We want to be sure we’re not missing that critically important demographic, particularly when it comes to building trust.”

Along with the Community Policing Unit, the new Community Services Division will include the existing School Resource Officer Program, and the Special Event Unit and Traffic Unit.

SWAT Division Changes

Louisville currently has a part-time SWAT division, whose officers divide their time between SWAT duties and other department functions. Conrad says this approach worked well in the past, but an increase in SWAT calls is making it challenging for those officers to keep up with both parts of their jobs. So the staff realignment includes the creation of a full-time SWAT Division, with about 20 officers.

The current part-time SWAT team will still be used to supplement the full-time team when more officers are needed, though Conrad said he expects the full-time team to respond to the “vast majority” of calls.

New Narcotics Officers

“Already this year we’ve seen a 47 percent increase in the number of overdose deaths that our officers have responded to,” Conrad said. “We also believe that narcotics trafficking is related to many of the homicides we’ve had this year, and much of the violent crime we’ve seen.”

In an effort to address these problems, two new squads — two sergeants and 14 detectives — will be added to the Narcotics Division.

In an effort to get more officers on the streets more quickly, LMPD has also rehired 17 recent retirees to be patrol officers. They are the first of the 122 new officers the department plans to hire this fiscal year.

All changes announced Friday will take effect on September 23.

Laura produces Curious Louisville, Strange Fruit, and other audio news stories for WFPL.