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Budget-Driven Cuts Contribute To Large LMPD Surplus

Police park outside Occupy ICE Protest Site
Police park outside Occupy ICE Protest Site

Nearly six months after citywide budget cuts, Metro government leaders shared insight into how the Louisville Metro Police Department ended up with a surplus of more than $2.6 million last year.

A key factor was the cancellation of a recruit class in June, which was done in anticipation of the cuts, according to the city's Chief Financial Officer Daniel Frockt. He and police Chief Steve Conrad addressed the Metro Council's public safety committee on Wednesday afternoon.

On Thursday, the budget committee will consider an ordinance determining how an unexpected $4 million surplus from the last fiscal year -- which includes the LMPD's excess -- will be allocated across Metro Government.

Frockt said about a third of the LMPD surplus came from sources like special events, including a one-time payment for the 2018 Breeders' Cup, which took place at Churchill Downs.

But eliminating the planned June recruit class saved the department $460,000 in personnel costs, he said.

"The reason that you have the greatest savings from the cancellation of the June class is that you have 12 months that you're not paying the recruits," Frockt said.

Another nearly $1.3 million wasn't spent on expenditures such as ammunition, first aid supplies, training, education and professional services, Frockt said. Major Paul Humphrey, commander of LMPD's training division, elaborated that money allocated for those line items related to the recruit class that did not happen was redistributed to other departments or not spent.

The Metro Council appropriated $179.4 million from the city's $626 million general fund in the 2018-2019 fiscal year budget.

Conrad said that 86 officers had resigned this year by the end of November, which is higher than anticipated. That was the deadline for retirement in order for some officers to receive certain pension benefits. The shortfall of officers this year, which is also due to some officers leaving for better-paying departments in the area, forced LMPD to reorganize this fall.

And, unlike other years, there was one fewer recruit class to make up for the losses.

"That class would have graduated this month, they would have gone through four months of field training, and we would have had somewhere between, you know, 35 and 40 new officers on the street that won't be there," he said.

The budget ordinance under consideration Thursday recommends allocating $300,000 to shift a recruit class from June of next year up to May. LMPD is also scheduled to start a class in February.

That "would give us an opportunity to hire up to a total of 96 recruits between the two classes, but the ones hired in February don't graduate until August, and aren't going to be in a position to help us on their own until almost the end of 2020," Conrad said.

Meanwhile, both homicides and shootings are up this year compared to 2018. He said there were 88 homicides through Dec. 4, 2019, compared to 73 by that date last year. As of Monday, there were about 17 more shootings this year than last for an increase of about 6.5 percent, he said.

Asked whether that could be a result of fewer officers and resources for the department, Conrad said he could not directly link those factors to the rate of crimes.

"But I absolutely do know that what the police do, matters," he said. "More officers, in my personal opinion, would lead to fewer, fewer crimes and in particular, fewer violent crimes."

This year's budget cuts were a result of a pension bill for city employees that is expected to continue increasing at about $10 million a year for the next several years. Some lawmakers and city leaders have said more tax revenue would be a preferable alternative to further cuts.

Amina Elahi is LPM's City Editor. Email Amina at aelahi@lpm.org.

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