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After Call To Remove Police Chief, Community Weighs In

The newspapers cluttered the coffee shop table.

Aaron Liebson flipped through the pages, browsing local and national reports.

Missing from the day's headlines, however, was the news that the Louisville Metro Council the previous night had voted in favor of a resolution to urge Mayor Greg Fischer to find a new police chief.

Still, Liebson was aware of the council's action.

He said such a move is well within the rights of the legislative body — just as it's Fischer's right to fire the police chief, which he has said he has no intention of doing.

But is it the right move for council members to publicly denounce Chief Steve Conrad? Liebson isn't sure.

"I don't know," he said. "It could make a difference, it could just as easily not do anything."

Liebson lives within the boundaries of the police department's Fifth Division — one of the city's safest, according to police data.

Yet crime still exists in the division — which includes the Highlands, Crescent Hill and surrounding areas. Police recorded more than 1,000 property crimes and nearly 90 violent crimes in the division in the first half of 2017.

Major Aubrey Gregory, who commands the Fifth Division, said his officers are committed to reducing these numbers, which are already low compared with other divisions.

And he'd rather focus on that effort instead of the politics that cloud City Hall.

"We work for the people," he said.

Gregory is at a table on the sidewalk outside the coffee shop. He's hosting a community event dubbed "Coffee with a Cop" that's meant to be an informal discussion where people can come and talk about anything they want with their local police division leaders.

He praised Conrad and Fischer and their strategy for reducing crime. And he took issue with the claim made by some council members that morale among police officers is low.

"I don't know where that comes from," he said.

Aubrey said overall crime statistics are dropping, despite a surge in murders. That, he said, is giving officers a sense of accomplishment.

"Those officers and detectives who are a part of that take great pride in that," he said.

Councilwoman Angela Leet, a Republican who is a core leader of the effort to oust Conrad, dismissed Aubrey's claim that morale is up.

"I've talked to a lot of officers who are less enthused," she said.

Leet compared Conrad to a sports coach with "a losing record" and repeated claims made by other council members that the chief and Fischer are manipulating crime statisticsto downplay the city's crime.

A spokesman for Fischer called those accusations "utterly ridiculous" and Aubrey laughed when asked about the claims.

And on Friday, just hours after the council voted, Leet — who co-sponsored the resolution — said she's "ready to move on."

For some residents, though, like Aaron Leibson, the question is how to move on with such divisions among city leaders.

"You could sit around, talk about what to do all day long," he said. "I don't know what actually can be done."

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.

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