Community

Louisville Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green wants police officers to spend more time patrolling on foot and bike in an effort to build better relationships with communities.

The call for more community-focused policing is one element in her five-point plan released Friday morning. She hopes the plan will spur broader conversation about halting the spiking violence in the city’s westernmost neighborhoods.

Green is also calling for more active parenting, more community involvement, more access to community centers and for more residents with knowledge of criminal activity to speak up.

She said she’ll push Mayor Greg Fischer and her colleagues on the Metro Council to increase funding for police overtime in the upcoming budget cycle.

“We need our police officers to have the resources so they can work for us and keep our streets safe,” she said.

Green said officers patrolling on foot, bike and ATV make it easier to talk with residents and build trust. “If the people do not trust you, they will not work with you,” she said.

Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad echoed Green’s sentiments. He said trust between police and communities is vital for fighting crime.

“We buy into that,” he said.

But finding time to meet the call for increased community policing efforts can be difficult.

Conrad said in recent years, the city’s police officers have been dedicating more time to foot patrols “as time allows.” Spending entire shifts walking neighborhoods is difficult because officers are still responsible for responding to emergency calls, which require quick responses, he said.

Conrad said 10 officers hired with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services would help further the city’s community policing effort. He said these officers would not be responsible for taking 911 calls, but rather they’d be tasked with engaging with residents, working to build trust and furthering community relations.

Ron Davis, director of the federal Community Oriented Policing Services office, visited Louisville Friday, just hours after Green released her anti-violence plan.

He acknowledged community policing requires departments to have resources to afford officers the time to get out of their cruisers and onto sidewalks and porches, and into community centers.

Davis said building an effective community policing initiative takes time.

“It’s an operational philosophy, it’s a culture, it’s the way the police department, as a whole, does business,” he said.

Davis praised LMPD for taking steps to use the federal grant money in a way to advance community policing philosophies. And Davis said he’s pleased with the current state of police and community relations in Louisville. He added that it’s not perfect, but no city is when it comes to policing.

Jacob Ryan is a reporter for the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting.