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LMPD seeking bigger budget, driven by personnel and technology costs

 Two Louisville Metro Police Department cruisers are parked under an overpass in Louisville.
J. Tyler Franklin
The Louisville Metro Police Department's chief said a new contract with higher pay will help attract more officers.

Mayor Craig Greenberg has proposed a $242 million budget for the Louisville Metro Police Department, an 8% increase over this year’s approved budget.

The biggest drivers of the increased spending are officers’ wages and benefits. The proposed budget also sets aside more money for equipment and body camera technology.

At a budget hearing this week, LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel said she thinks the budget request for the coming year addresses the most pressing needs. But she said she is always advocating for more funding for training.

“If I have more funding for training, then I’m able to send my leaders to exceptional training that other colleagues are going to,” she said. “I’m also able to bring some really notable individuals to Louisville to train our leadership and even at the recruit level.”

Louisville Metro Council members are currently vetting the mayor’s proposed spending plan, including the police budget, and will put forward their own budget amendments in the coming weeks. The budget for next fiscal year will go into effect on July 1.

New contract, higher pay

The largest line item in LMPD’s budget is personnel costs. The department is proposing to spend about $12 million more on its employees, compared to last year’s approved budget.

Louisville Metro recently reached a deal with the police union that will increase salaries for rank-and-file officers, lieutenants, sergeants and captains by 22% over the next three years. Those increased wages also means the city will need to put more money aside for additional overtime pay and pension contributions.

During his budget address to Metro Council last month, Greenberg said his administration is focused on raising the wages of all city workers, not just first responders.

“We have to prioritize competitive wages and benefits because having the right people in the right jobs, and putting them in a position to do their jobs right, is how we all succeed. it’s how the city succeeds,” Greenberg said.

The mayor’s budget proposal would increase the allocation for nonscheduled overtime by roughly $3 million, from up to more than $17 million.

Despite a reported shortage of more than 250 officers, LMPD is planning to reduce its spending on its recruitment efforts. Last year, the department received $1 million to enhance recruitment and retention. The proposed budget would slash that in half.

Asked about the cut at a budget hearing Wednesday, LMPD Chief Jackie Gwinn-Villaroel said the additional funding last year went to a marketing firm that helped them boost their presence and advertising online. She said the increase in officer wages, including the boost to starting pay for new recruits, will do more of the heavy lifting this year.

“We are hopeful that because of the contract that’s in play, we will get those individuals that we need,” Gwinn-Villaroel said.

LMPD expanding its contract with body cam maker

The proposed budget would allow LMPD to spend more money on weapons and ammunition, but the largest increase in equipment spending is on the department’s contract with Axon.

Axon is the parent company of TASER International, Inc., maker of the ubiquitous less-lethal weapon. It’s commonly used by police departments across the country for body cameras and the software that downloads and stores the video footage.

Contracts obtained by LPM News show LMPD’s contract with Axon now costs about $6.8 million annually, as of this January.

For the upcoming fiscal year, many of those additional expenses show up as a $3 million increase to LMPD’s “computer software rental.”

LMPD Colonel Nicholas Owen told Metro Council Wednesday that the larger contract reflects “an increased use” of Axon’s products.

“It’s not just TASERs, it’s not just body cameras,” he said. “We put their cameras in our new cars … We’re scheduled to put cameras on some of our SWAT vehicles, our armored vehicles.”

Owen said the department is also upgrading officers’ body cameras to the newest model. And LMPD is contracting with Axon to install new cameras in police interview rooms.

Louisville Metro signed a ten-year contract with Axon in November, totalling about $60 million. The city could opt out after five years.

Three local governments in the U.S., including Baltimore, are currently suing the company, accusing Axon of artificially inflating prices and stifling competition through “excessively long supply contracts.” Axon has denied the allegations.

District 1 Council Member Tammy Hawkins, a Democrat who chairs the council’s Public Safety Committee, stressed during the budget hearing that officers need to properly use city-funded equipment. Hawkins said one of the most frequent complaints she gets from residents is officers failing to activate their body-worn cameras.

“You’ve got to help me help you,” Hawkins told Gwinn-Villaroel. “We can’t fund thousands of dollars of equipment that’s not being used.”

On Thursday, LMPD announced the detective who arrested professional golfer Scottie Scheffler during the PGA Championship in Louisville faced discipline for not turning his body camera on during the incident. He was “counseled” by a supervisor for the violation. The department has seen widespread criticism after news of Scheffler’s arrest went viral last week.

Other spending

The proposed budget for LMPD also includes $400,000 for DNA testing in homicide and sexual assault investigations.

The department began using private labs for DNA testing in 2021 because of delays in getting results from state-run labs. LMPD officials attributed the increased wait times to high homicide numbers across Kentucky and a shortage of lab technicians.

Greenberg’s proposed spending plan would also set aside $4 million in the capital budget to replace one of LMPD’s aging helicopters. Another $375,000 would be used to hire a third-party monitor to oversee the city’s compliance with an expected consent decree.

Louisville is currently in negotiations with the U.S. Department of Justice over the content of that agreement, which will outline a roadmap for policing reform. The consent decree will be entered into federal court, much like a lawsuit settlement, and the third-party monitor will report directly to the judge.

The consent decree will be the end result of a two-year investigation by the DOJ, which found LMPD officers routinely engaged in unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.

Jacob Ryan contributed reporting.

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

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