Metro Council passes no-confidence resolution against LMPD chief; Mayor Fischer calls vote ‘distraction’

Ellen Hesen, the chief of staff for Mayor Greg Fischer, spoke against the no-confidence resolution to the council Thursday, with many top Fischer administration officials standing behind her. | Photo by Joe Sonka

Louisville Metro Council passed a resolution expressing no confidence in the leadership of Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad by a bipartisan 13-9 vote Thursday evening, a move that Mayor Greg Fischer slammed as “a distraction from the real work many people in the city are doing to fight crime.”

The no-confidence resolution is non-binding and does not force Conrad out of office, but it does call for Fischer to ask for the police chief’s resignation, citing Louisville’s record-high homicide rate and the council’s concern over his department’s transparency, the low morale of officers, staff changes and the Youth Explorer sexual abuse scandal.

Several council members have spoken about being heavily lobbied by the Fischer administration over the past two weeks to vote against the resolution, which also made its presence felt at Thursday’s meeting. The mayor’s chief of staff, Ellen Hesen, addressed the council to speak against the resolution, while many of the top officials in the administration dramatically stood behind her in the gallery — all of whom stayed throughout the meeting until the resolution was approved in the final vote of the meeting.

Mayor Fischer released a statement after the vote calling it a distraction, saying that instead of working with Conrad and LMPD to improve their crime-fighting plan as citizens expect, too many council members “are just critics and simplistically target one person for a complex problem — and it comes on the heels of the Metro Council cutting funding to important public safety programs like Cure Violence.”

“Chief Conrad and the dedicated men and women of the LMPD have my full support and appreciation, and clearly that of the vast majority of Louisville citizens,” stated Fischer.

Conrad also released a statement, saying: “I am not now, nor will I ever be, distracted from what the community demands, and what Mayor Fischer expects of me, which is to fight crime. I will continue to do all I can with the men and women of this department to make Louisville a safer city.”

Roll call vote on the no-confidence resolution | Photo by Joe Sonka

All nine Republicans present voted for the resolution, as did four Democratic council members — including former LMPD detective, David James, who spearheaded the movement to pass a no-confidence measure against Conrad. Nine Democrats voted against the resolution, while council President David Yates abstained due to representing the alleged victims in the Youth Explorer case, and Councilwoman Cindi Fowler, D-14, only voted present.

Many of the council members repeated their comments made last week when the public safety committee voted on the resolution, with supporters detailing why Conrad had lost their faith and the city needed a change, while detractors said that no one man could magically cause or prevent the city’s homicide rate from rising and that removing Conrad was outside of the council’s authority.

Though Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch repeated many of her criticisms of Conrad’s leadership at Thursday’s meeting, she decided to vote against the resolution, saying that administration and LMPD officials had spoken directly with her over the past week and she felt she should withhold judgment on Conrad until the Youth Explorer scandal reached a resolution in court.

Councilwoman Barbara Shanklin, D-2, had been on the fence on the matter, but explained her no vote by saying that it would send a message to the mayor that the increase in violent crime had to stop, citing seven shootings within a recent two-day stretch in her district.

“Whether we vote for this resolution or don’t, it’s going to send a message to the mayor that we need help out here,” said Shanklin. “We’re asking for help, we’re begging for help. I’m begging right now. I answer to my district. I don’t have to answer to the mayor ever… I like the chief, I’m just concerned about my district.”

Following a seven-minute rundown of his concerns with the leadership of Conrad, Councilman James said that the morale of LMPD officers is the lowest he’s seen in 30 years and cited Mayor Fischer’s “Be the 1” violence-reduction campaign, concluding his remarks by adding “I’m asking you to be the one and vote for this resolution.”

There have been 80 criminal homicides within in Jefferson County so far this year, which is on pace to surpass the all-time record of 124 set in 2016 — though Conrad and Fischer have touted a small decrease in both violent and property crimes compared to last year.