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Amid Continuing Violence, Metro Council Is Divided Over Police Shakeup

Louisville City Hall
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville City Hall

The recent reorganization of the Louisville Metro Police Department is causing a chasm between top ranking Democrats on the city council.

The opposing views of majority caucus chair Bill Hollander and vice-chair Cheri Bryant Hamilton serve as a salient example of the rift stemming from the controversial police shakeup that disbanded flex platoons to bolster the department's narcotics unit.

Hamilton, who represents District 5 and some of the neighborhoods most affected by gun violence this year, sees flex platoons as a critical element in street-level crime fighting and bemoans their loss.

She talks at length about the plain-clothes flex platoon detectives who, she said, could gather intel more effectively than uniformed officers. Those detectives could then weave the information together across divisional boundaries to get a more robust picture of gang and drug activity, she said.

Stripping the streets of those platoons is senseless, she said.

Hamilton joined several council members, community members and the police union to openly oppose the changes before they were imposed and she's remained critical as the homicide tally has continued to climb.

"Why would you remove those resources," she said in an interview this week.

Hollander, who represents District 9, where the LMPD has recorded a single shooting incident this year, said bluntly that the police reorganization needs more time to bear the promised changes.

He said Police Chief Steve Conrad is set to update the council in six months on the changes, which took effect in early November.

"That seems reasonable," Hollander said in an interview this week.

Hollander echoes Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who two weeks ago said the reorganization "needs to be given a chance to work."

That notion frustrates Hamilton, however.

The city's murder count is at an all time high and a handful of neighborhoods are continuously bedeviled by the bang of gunfire. Hamilton's frustration echoed across across social media this weekend after police reported a series of shootings in and around her district.

"There's a war out here on the streets," she wrote on Twitter. "Since flex disbanded no one is getting the street intel."

Asked this week about what she'd like to see happen to quell the crime, she turned subversive.

"Changes have to be made and I think they have to start at the top," she said. "How many more have to die."

Fischer has stressed he supports Chief Conrad. The hiring and firing of the police chief in Louisville rests solely with Fischer. Conrad currently has no contract with the city. But confidence in Conrad seems to be wavering.

Hamilton said she supports the police union, the head of which recently penned a letter to Fischer censuring Conrad's leadership.

"If they don't have the confidence, you know, I don't have the confidence," she said. "The community is not going to take it much longer."

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.