Metro Louisville

The search for Louisville’s permanent chief of police is officially on, city leaders said Monday.

Mayor Greg Fischer said the criteria for who should lead Louisville’s police force has changed since eight years ago, when he selected Steve Conrad for the job.

The next chief must be someone who “is really leaning into the issues that are required to build police-community legitimacy,” Fischer said.

Fischer fired Conrad in June, after Louisville police participated in an operation during which a National Guard member shot and killed a Black man named David McAtee. The police officers who fired their weapons in that incident were not wearing or had not activated their body cameras, which Fischer called “unacceptable.”

Law enforcement was breaking up a social gathering that was in violation of a curfew that Fischer ordered as protests demanding justice for 26-year-old Breonna Taylor gained steam in the city. Police shot and killed Taylor, a Black woman, in her home in March. Their raid on her apartment was linked to a broader narcotics investigation that focused on her ex-boyfriend. No drugs were found in her apartment.

Conrad had previously announced his intention to retire at the end of June, as outcry over Taylor’s killing grew. During his tenure, the police department faced a number of scandals ranging from sex abuse by officers of teens to overtime mismanagement.

Fischer named Robert Schroeder, previously the assistant chief, to serve as the interim chief. Fischer said Schroeder will not play a formal role in selecting the permanent chief.

This time around, Louisville will conduct a national search for a chief using a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. called the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF). Before Fischer appointed  Conrad in 2012, the city used the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville.

“I thought that would be useful to have a real kind of local feel for what we needed,” Fischer said. “But this time I felt it’s better to jump up and go to the national organization.”

A recent posting for the job says the previous chief’s base salary was $175,102.

The posting alludes to the ongoing protests, describing the search as being conducted “in the context of a national upheaval in policing and at a challenging time for the Louisville Metro community.”

Justice for Taylor in the form of firing, arresting and charging the officers who killed her has been a sustained demand from protesters in Louisville, as well as from observers across the country and world. The city’s handling of this issue has drawn much outside scrutiny.

Not only that, gun violence is spiking in the city.

“The successful candidate must have the ability to effectively engage and build trust in the community and with the members of the Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD),” the listing said. “The Chief must have demonstrated experience effectively implementing 21st Century policing principles within multi-cultural communities.”

More than 10,000 people responded to a public survey seeking feedback on the type of person Louisville should hire as its next chief of police, Chief of Public Safety Amy Hess said. The responses came from every Louisville zip code, she said. They also came from 29 states, another indication of how much national attention is focused on Louisville.

Hess said feedback from the survey and community members through a series of listening sessions raised similar themes.

“We want somebody who’s accountable, who’s collaborative, who’s a proven leader, who’s reform-minded and who’s a good communicator,” were among the comments, she said.

Hess said community members’ comments had some other themes as well, including a focus on deescalation or defunding or abolishing the police. The latter ideas do not have support among government officials, with Fischer saying earlier this summer that the Louisville community does not want to defund the police, and with Metro Council maintaining the department’s funding in its latest budget.

She said 185 police officers provided feedback, and they described wanting a chief who leads from the front and who would improve training and accountability.

The search will follow this process: PERF will collect job applications, which are open through August 31, analyze them against the required qualifications and feedback from community, then provide a list for consideration. Then the city plans to assemble a group of community and government representatives to further narrow the list and interview candidates. That group will then send recommendations to the mayor. Hess said the process will take four to five months.

Two listening session participants — LMPD officer Roberto Grider with Black Police Officers For Change and Sydney Tucker, a member of the mayor’s Youth Implementation Team — joined Monday’s news conference. They both said the race of the next chief is not important to them.

“Honestly, as long as the chief of police has high integrity, of course, and has a committee, so to speak, in order to look over all the lenses and perspectives from other backgrounds…then I feel that they would be right for the job,” Tucker said.

Fischer said he did not want to place limitations on who the next chief of police should be based on race or gender.

“We just want somebody that’s going to be the best fit for our city,” he said.

Amina Elahi is WFPL's City Reporter.