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Inside Louisville Police’s $220M budget request for 2024

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

Louisville Metro Police Department officials are asking for a $222 million budget next year with increased investments in recruiting and community engagement. The request would be a roughly 2% increase over LMPD’s 2022-23 budget.

Metro Council is currently vetting Mayor Craig Greenberg’s recommended budget, including LMPD’s portion, and are expected to release their proposed amendments in the coming weeks. Louisville’s 2024 budget will go into effect on July 1.

An “aggressive” recruitment strategy

Speaking to Metro Council Thursday night, LMPD Interim Chief Jacquelyn Gwinn-Villaroel said her department is currently short 292 sworn officers.

The proposed budget for next year includes an extra $1 million to ramp up recruitment efforts. The money will also be used to hire a third-party consulting firm who will advise LMPD on how to get more people to join the academy.

Gwinn-Villaroel said she’s hopeful the firm will help them develop more effective recruitment strategies.

“We’ve done the TARC bus wrap-arounds, we’ve done the billboards, we’ve done great in terms of boosting up our own social media, but now we just really need to be more intentional as to where we’re going,” she said.

Part of LMPD’s recruitment strategy will also focus on young people who are interested in a law enforcement career. Gwinn-Villaroel said she’s in talks with Jefferson County Public Schools to “see if we can get in the schools in that last part of their senior year.”

LMPD also wants to pilot a new cadet program which would allow high school students to be embedded within the department and learn from officers first-hand. Louisville recently lowered its age requirement for joining the police academy from 21 to 20.

Rebuilding trust

Mayor Greenberg’s proposed budget would double LMPD’s community engagement funding from $25,000 to $50,000.

The move follows a scathing report from the U.S. Department of Justice released in March that found LMPD routinely violated the civil rights of residents. The DOJ has accused LMPD of having a pattern or practice of using excessive force and discriminating against Black people.

Gwinn-Villaroel said the additional funding for community engagement will help expand public discourse and programs, including a relaunch of “Conversations with Cops” which began last year. LMPD recently began hosting “Stop the Violence” events in neighborhoods where gun violence has become a pressing issue.

“In those spaces we’re actually having a DJ come, a person who does face painting for the children,” she said. “But we’re giving out crime tips and literature, and we’re actually having a conversation with the community that is really robust.”

Gwinn-Villaroel also highlighted the work of the department’s Citizens Police Academy, which allows residents to get a deeper understanding of what an officer's job looks like. She also pointed out that every LMPD employee has now completed truth and transformation training. That program, created by the National Network for Safe Communities, aimed to educate officers about the historical harms of over policing certain communities and included listening sessions with residents who’ve had bad interactions with police.

“All of these things are having those candid conversations about race relationships, how police can do better in the community, what you expect from us,” Gwinn-Villaroel said.

Other expenses

The proposed LMPD budget for next year sets aside $1.5 million for upgrades to equipment that the department says is outdated and in need of replacement.

Last year, in response to the police failures during the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, LMPD outlined the equipment officers have in order to deal with an “active aggressor situation." Police officials said each officer has been assigned bullet-resistant vests that carry a “level 3 plate,” which are stronger than what they typically wear on patrol and can stop high-caliber rifle rounds. But officials warned that those plates were expiring and would be costly for the city to replace.

LMPD officials have also been working for years to ensure every officer is assigned a handgun and rifle issued by the department, rather than something they purchase on their own.

Gwinn-Villaroel told Metro Council Thursday that LMPD’s two helicopters are “dated” and “need to be changed out.” That would cost the city around $7 million each.

“It’s a heavy lift,” she said. “I would ask for that for the next budget.”

LMPD will actually pay roughly $625,000 less to operate its body cameras in the coming year, per its contract with the company Axon.

Under Greenberg’s proposed budget, police personnel who have been responsible for responding to public records requests will be transferred out to a new Department of Records Compliance. Greenberg announced the change at a press conference last month and said it will allow Louisville Metro to “establish trust” and be more proactive about releasing information to the public. The proposal includes adding six additional employees to the agency to the tune of $375,000.

Metro Council is expected to take a final vote on the 2024 recommended budget on June 22.

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