The Louisville Metro Police Department could lose up to 100 officers by the end of the fiscal year, leading Chief Steve Conrad to reorganize staff in an effort to “become leaner and more focused in our approach,” he announced Tuesday morning.
LMPD has already implemented some changes this year due to Metro-wide budget cuts, including pulling crossing guards and resource officers out of schools, and cutting a recruit class. City leaders cut more than $25 million from this year’s budget due to increasing pension and employee health care costs.
The changes announced Tuesday involve consolidating departments starting Dec. 1, the deadline for some officers to retire in order to receive certain pension benefits. Conrad said special operations and community services would merge, as would narcotics and the Ninth Mobile division.
“While we’re still working out the details of these combined divisions in terms of how they’ll be structured internally, we know that the steps are necessary because of the budget cuts, and because of the size of our decreasing workforce,” Conrad said at a news conference Tuesday. “Our intention is to continue to serve this community, though, with all of the functions that currently exist today in these divisions.”
The LMPD will reorganize its command structure, as two major positions will be eliminated through attrition, he said.
Conrad characterized the move to reorganize as “difficult decisions,” and said there would be more to come.
When the last fiscal year ended in June, LMPD had an average of 1,260 officers, including command staff, Conrad said. Now, the department is down to 1,189. He said LMPD would not be hiring any new employees until February.
The city’s pension obligation will continue rising for the next several years, leaving some Metro Council members concerned that more budget cuts are on the horizon unless they figure out a way to increase tax revenue. That could spell a $10 million reduction next year.
“I know there are a number of efforts underway, being able to find additional resources that might potentially change the course,” Conrad said, referring to council members. “But we are at this point operating with less money than what we had last year and making decisions based on that.”
Conrad said LMPD will continue to reduce staff over time as needed to fit the department’s budget.
But budget isn’t the only reason the department is shrinking. In addition to retirements, some officers are leaving for jobs they prefer at other police departments. And Conrad has come under fire for comments he made this summer in which he did not take responsibility for low officer morale.
Conrad said Tuesday he is concerned about officer attrition. He lamented not being in a position to compete with offers from other police departments.