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What is and isn’t in Louisville’s new police contracts

Close up of lights on top of a police car
J. Tyler Franklin
The city and union negotiated the new police contracts behind closed doors, against accountability advocates' wishes.

Louisville Metro Council approved union contracts for police officers Thursday night.

Louisville Metro Police Department officers will get multiple raises in the coming years, as part of new contracts between the city and the police union.

Metro Council approved the collective bargaining agreement Thursday night with less than a handful of council members voting against it. Salaries for the department’s sworn staff — rank-and-file officers plus lieutenants, sergeants and captains — will increase 22% overall by 2027. The contracts also include changes to overtime policies.

Mayor Craig Greenberg’s administration and the police union, the River City Fraternal Order of Police, have celebrated the new contracts as key to attracting and retaining good officers amid a staffing shortage at LMPD.

At a press conference last week, Greenberg said LMPD is currently short about 260 officers.

“Folks, if we want to fill those positions with good, trusted officers that we all want, then we must pay them competitive wages, especially compared to benchmark cities and other police departments in our own county,” he said. “These are the heroes who step up for us in our greatest moments of need.”

Greenberg said the contracts also underscore the city’s commitment to transparency by more clearly spelling out the officer discipline process and the circumstances under which supervisors can remotely access an officer’s body-worn camera.

But police accountability advocates say the city failed to get significant concessions from the police union that would allow officers to be held accountable. And they say the negotiations that led to the new agreements were anything but transparent.

Increasing officer pay and union concessions

The most significant changes in the new collective bargaining agreements are around officer pay and overtime.

Rank-and-file officers and higher-ups within LMPD will see an immediate 7% raise. Between now and July 2026, the starting salary for new officers will increase from $52,000 to nearly $67,000.

The department will start including paid time off when calculating overtime. So, if an officer is off for a paid holiday, vacation or sick leave, that time would count toward the weekly 40-hour limit, after which they earn overtime at 1.5 times their hourly wage.

The policy changes will likely mean more overtime pay for officers, and Greenberg said it will hopefully lead to “a better work-life balance."

The added pay an officer receives when their regular shift starts between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. has also been doubled to $1 per hour. And if a position sits vacant for 60 days or longer, an LMPD officer promoted to the position will receive back pay and benefits.

The flat fee an officer receives for appearing in court outside their normal work hours, known as court pay, will also increase from $65 to $112. Retired officers will continue to receive court pay for testifying in criminal cases.

In a statement last week, LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel said the department must attract officers “who have the passion and the drive to serve our community.”

“You can pay your officers well and still require accountability,” she said. “You will get that commitment from us as we move this department forward.”

The Greenberg administration said it received some concessions from the police union through the negotiations.

Police supervisors will be required to keep notes on the performance and behavior of the officers under their command. The parties also resolved disputes over bullet-proof vest policies and who the police chief could appoint to the department’s Accountability and Improvement Bureau.

City officials and union leaders agreed to work together on developing a mental and physical health screening program for officers. Once it’s set up, officers will be required to get an annual screening. The results will not be shared with supervisors.

The Greenberg administration noted in its summary of changes that, “like most negotiations, numerous other requests/suggestions did not make it into the final contract.”

Transparency and accountability

Despite promises of greater transparency, Greenberg’s administration held closed-door contract negotiations with the union starting last February. The move outraged some community groups, like the 490 Project and the Louisville Urban League, which had demanded public negotiations.

When negotiations ended earlier this month, the proposed contracts were quietly placed on Metro Council’s agenda. Residents were then given 24 hours to sign up for the only public feedback session dedicated to the agreements. The Greenberg administration and the union didn’t hold a press conference about the contracts until April 17, two days after the public meeting.

Taylor U’Sellis, a member of the police accountability group The 490 Project, said she's frustrated by the process. She’s running in the Democratic primary for Metro Council’s District 8 seat.

“There was no transparency at all in this process and no even attempt at transparency after the [U.S. Department of Justice] specifically instructed our city and LMPD to be more transparent about everything,” U’Sellis said.

Louisville Metro officials are currently in negotiations with the DOJ over a consent decree, which will serve as a roadmap for reforming the police department. The consent decree will aim to address LMPD’s discriminatory and unconstitutional policing practices that the DOJ identified in a scathing report released last year.

For The 490 Project, the new contracts represent continuation of the previous mayoral administration’s approach to negotiations: giving police more money while asking for little, if any, contract changes in return.

In comments at the public meeting and emails, The 490 Project asked Metro Council members not to ratify the contracts and instead send the Greenberg administration and union leaders back to the negotiating table. They highlighted what they see as numerous deficiencies, including the lack of an estimate or analysis of what the pay increases were going to cost taxpayers in the coming years.

The group provided a list of proposed reforms to the Greenberg administration at the start of negotiations, almost none of which ended up in the final contracts. Other community groups, including VOCAL-KY and the Louisville Urban League, signed onto the proposal.

They demanded that all misconduct complaints filed against officers be included in the early warning detection system LMPD says it’s created to identify problem officers. They also wanted to require officers comply with independent investigations by the Civilian Review and Accountability Board, require drug and alcohol tests any time an officer fires their gun and the removal of a “no layoffs” clause, among other changes.

Nancy Cavalcante, another member of The 490 Project, noted there also was no change to the eligibility criteria for a program that incentivizes officers to live in neighborhoods they frequently police. An LPM News analysis found no officer has taken advantage of the program in the three years since it was created.

Cavalcante said she’d like to see the city expand the program.

“That’s money that’s been committed to LMPD, why couldn’t we broaden its use?” she said. “I’m sure there’s people who work for the city that would like to have a place in one of these districts.”

Now that they’re approved, the new union contracts will serve as the basis for officer pay and discipline until fresh negotiations begin in mid-2027.

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

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