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Louisville police union agrees to contract with bigger raises, no new reforms

 Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
Louisville Public Media
Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.

Louisville Metro Government and the city’s police union have reached a deal on a collective bargaining agreement for rank-and-file officers — again.

The two parties previously put together an agreement in August, but an overwhelming majority of officers voted against it. Although the original deal included what both sides said was the largest one-time pay increase in the department’s history, many officers said they felt it still wasn’t enough. 

Under the new tentative contract, officers would get a 9% pay raise in the first year, retroactive to July. In the second and final year of the contract, they would get a 6% pay increase, up from the 3% previously proposed.

That means the starting salary for a Louisville police officer in July 2022 will be $52,561, compared to $45,489 right now.

The union representing officers, River City FOP Lodge 614, said in a statement Sunday night that its members voted to approve the contract. 

“The FOP believes the decision to ratify the proposal can help with recruitment and retention efforts,” the union said. “The critical manpower shortage that currently exists makes it essential that everyone involved do everything possible to assist the LMPD to reach adequate staffing levels.”

A representative for the union declined to comment further.

The deal will still need to be voted on by Metro Council. In a statement following the vote, Mayor Greg Fischer urged council members to pass it.

“It's critical that Louisville has a police department that offers competitive compensation in order to retain and drive recruitment of the best and brightest officers, and to move forward with reforms that strengthen trust between officers and the community they serve,” Fischer said. 

What’s in the contract?

Aside from a substantial increase in pay raises, the tentative contract is identical to the previous deal. 

It has a handful of reforms, including mandatory drug testing after a critical incident, like a shooting or serious car accident. If an officer refuses, they can be fired. The union must also recognize the independent Civilian Review and Accountability Board, created by Metro Council last year.

Other reforms included in the contract:

  • Investigators assigned to the Special Investigations Department, which conducts investigations of officer-involved shootings and citizen complaints, will be required to do 40 hours of training on “internal affairs policy, practice and legal considerations.”
  • A $5,000 down payment incentive for officers to buy a home in one of Louisville’s low-income neighborhoods
  • A new program that will allow officers to get paid to volunteer with a community group for up to two hours each pay period

While Fischer said the provisions are evidence of his office’s “commitment to bring major reformative changes,” local activists are less than impressed.

Members of the 490 Project, a grassroots activist group focused on Louisville’s police contracts, have said the reforms are inadequate. They’ve pointed to reforms they say are necessary for increased transparency and accountability, but aren’t in the new contract. 

Earlier this year, The 490 Project urged Fischer to open up contract negotiations to the media and members of the public. Instead, the Fischer administration agreed to close the meetings to the public, including to Metro Council members. The group also demanded that supervisors’ notes about an officer’s performance and conduct be part of their permanent personnel file, instead of being destroyed after one year.

Taylor U'Sellis, an activist with The 490 Project, said Monday that Fischer’s willingness to increase the size of proposed pay raises without demanding any additional reforms is “a missed opportunity.”

“He could have negotiated further changes to the collective bargaining agreement,” she said. “To give them more money without asking for anything else [in return], that seems like a negotiating 101 failure.”

Supporters confident about contract's chances

While The 490 Project will be calling on Louisville Metro Council to vote down the contract, some members are already lining up to support it.

Shortly after the police union announced it had reached a new deal, District 19 Metro Council Member Anthony Piagentini said he would sponsor the contract. Piagentini, who heads the Republican caucus, said every member of his caucus plans to be a sponsor. 

Piagentini told WFPL News on Monday that he believes there is widespread, bipartisan support for the new contract on Metro Council. He said the hope is that it will help alleviate a shortage of roughly 300 officers within the Louisville Metro Police Department.

“Most people can see that without addressing the pay of our LMPD officers, we can not seriously rectify that recruiting issue and retention issue,” Piagentini said. “LMPD, in my opinion, has the largest and most direct role relating to public safety, so if we are serious about combating violent crime we have to get this contract passed.”

The contract is almost identical to the one Metro Council approved earlier this month for police captains and lieutenants.

Metro Council’s Labor and Economic Development Committee is expected to discuss the contract at its meeting next week. It could be up for a final vote as soon as December 16.

Roberto Roldan is the City Politics and Government Reporter for WFPL. Email Roberto at rroldan@lpm.org.