Metro police carThe Louisville Metro Police Department plans to beef up its Downtown Area Patrol (DAP) by anywhere from eight to 12 police officers by September, an increase LMPD says is a response to the city center growing as a residential and entertainment hub.

The DAP currently has nine police officers and five command staff. These additional police will come from throughout the LMPD’s First Division, which patrols downtown, Butchertown, Phoenix Hill, Portland and Russell.

The DAP is considered a part of the First Division. However, it is a specialized unit within the division, established to provide a police presence in Louisville’s emerging downtown, and it’s headquartered at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

The police in the DAP work in a way that brings them closer to street level and allows them to access different types of terrain using bikes, four-wheelers and scooters.

Police with at least three years experience can apply for the positions and will interview for these jobs. Selected officers will start transitioning to the DAP in groups of two or three this month.

The idea for the DAP — which includes the city’s central business district, Waterfront Park, Eva Bandman Park, and the River Walk — came about following a rash of youth-related crime at Waterfront Park on March 22, 2014.

To replace the veteran officers leaving for the DAP, the First Division will add 17 first-year police. This could up the divisions’s total number of police from its current 98 to anywhere from 103 to 107. The final tally for the First Division will depend on how many First Division police apply for and are accepted to work in the DAP.

Of the new officers assigned to the DAP, four will be on a rotating status, said Andrea Brown, commander of the First Division. “If you don’t want to be permanently assigned downtown you can work there for six months, and then come back to the beat,” she said, adding that this will keep fresh people moving into the DAP.

Why focus on Louisville’s downtown core? After all, “riots” notwithstanding, isn’t it one of the safer parts of the city? Brown said this move is largely due to how downtown is growing as a residential and entertainment hub. “They need officers down in the area to keep up with the pace,” she said.

The First Division at large has accounted for 30 percent of Louisville’s homicides so far in 2015, with a total number of nine, versus the city’s overall total of 30. In 2014 at this time, there were seven homicides in the First Division, and 17 in the city.

Did Brown have concerns about more experienced officers moving from beats with higher crime rates to the DAP and being replaced by first-year police?

Brown said the new police will be up for the job. “We’re not dumping inexperienced officers out there,” she said. The new officers ride with another officer during their first six months on the job, in order to learn the beat and how the division works.

Only after they get acclimated are they put out on their own in the division, and even then they are on the same beat as the officer who trained them. Brown called this “riding side-by-side.” The advantage is new officers can go on calls with an officer they already know. “These officers are going to be ready to handle the day-to-day activities of the First Division, because they’ve been there,” she said.

Of these 17 new First Division officers, eight are currently in training and scheduled to go solo by the end of this month, Brown said. The remainder will be ready by August.

IL asked Metro Council President David Tandy what he thought about these plans to transition some of the more experienced officers in the First Division to the DAP. Tandy represents the city’s Fourth District, which overlaps some of the territory of the First Division. Was he concerned veteran officers will leave more dangerous beats to work in the relative safety of the business district and Waterfront Park?

Tandy didn’t see it that way. “It’s an increase in officers in the division, not only in the downtown area, but in the neighborhoods as well,” he said. “I welcome the DAP program that’s taking place here and think it’s a step in the right direction, as related to our evolving downtown community.”

Tandy added that applying to work at the DAP is no different from any other program where experienced officers have the chance to apply to be a detective, or a member of another other elite unit.

“The level of experience you will see in the neighborhoods by the officers patrolling them is no different than in other parts of the community,” he said. “But we are increasing our ability to patrol our ever-growing central business district.”