LMPD officers in Metro Council chambers prepare for budget hearing | Photo by Jonathan Meador

On Wednesday night, Metro Council peppered Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad and his team with dozens of questions over the department’s recommended $179 million budget for 2018-2019. But the topics that garnered the most attention from city leaders were the rise in attrition of LMPD officers and overtime pay.

According to the mayor’s recommended 2018-2019 budget, LMPD had 48 fewer officers between July 2017 and April 2018. The mayor’s proposed budget recommends adding 145 new police officers during the next fiscal year.

Conrad told the council that the biggest factor he’s heard from officers who resign — especially those in academy training and first-year officers  — are fears over pensions.

“It’s just massive compared to any year we’ve had,” he said. “The average number was 81 until last year, where we lost 101. This year, we’re on course to lose 156.”

But despite the attrition of officers, Conrad said the LMPD has had success in reducing violent crime rates during that same period. Homicide is down 25 percent over last year, and nonfatal shootings are down by 17 percent, LMPD said.

When asked by reporters whether a reduced number of officers on the street suggests there might not be a link between police manpower and crime reduction, Conrad diasgreed.

“What we do absolutely matters,” he said. “We spent a great deal of time and effort in neighborhoods where we’ve seen the most violent crime. Those are neighborhoods where we’ve seen some of the greatest reductions, which at least in my evaluation, directly supports the idea that what we do matters.”

Conrad acknowledged that sustaining those reductions require continued partnerships with the Office of Safe & Healthy Neighborhoods and federal law enforcement agencies.

But with a projected overtime cost in excess of $2.7 million above the current budget, Conrad echoed earlier discussion from the evening by saying Metro Council directives for LMPD presences during special events was a large factor in driving up the costs.

Conrad said that $1.7 million of the overtime money spent by LMPD so far this year went to pay officers working special events in Metro Council districts.

“It wouldn’t have been nearly that big had we not done that,” he said. “The other uses of [overtime pay] were used for violent crime reduction in the neighborhood of about $1 million.”

The figures Conrad gave to the council were $1.1 million in overtime costs related to violent crime reduction, at over 28,000 cumulative hours — an increase of nearly 3,000 hours compared to last year.

“We think that’s money well spent,” Conrad added.

The chief said that the goal for this year was to have 1,293 positions in the LMPD, but that the department hasn’t “been able to get anywhere near that.”