LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Members of Metro Council say they're frustrated, and losing faith in the city's police chief.
With the crime rate on the rise, and the city on pace to surpass last year's record for homicides, the council had a simple question for Chief Steve Conrad: What do you need to put an end to this?
Chief Conrad’s response, or lack thereof, shows that there is a clear divide in Metro Government.
When it comes to safety Louisville Metro Council members Brent Ackerson and David James say the city of Louisville continues to fall short.
“We have a shooting rate that’s higher than last year,” said Councilman David James. “Public safety is the number one responsibility of government and we’re not doing a very good job of it right now.”
“I think we’re not,” said Councilman Brent Ackerson. “That’s evidenced by not my opinion by the facts, statistics. Crime is up, and murders are up across the board.”
Citing FBI statistics Ackerson says the city is roughly 354 officers short of their peers in similar-sized cities, and James says that’s handcuffing their ability to do their job.
“It’s pretty difficult to expect us to be reducing crime, and doing things we like police officers to do when we don’t have enough police officers to do that,” said James.
At Wednesday night’s council meeting Chief Steve Conrad was asked if 100 more officers would do the job.
“That information is all shared with OMB and the mayor's staff and it will be a part of the mayor's budget address next Thursday,” said Chief Steve Conrad.
That answer has members of Metro Council questioning whether the Chief is more committed to fighting crime or playing politics.
“I found that disturbing,” said James. “What I think really what he is saying is we need X number of officers, but I don’t know if the mayor will allow me to have that number of officers so I’m not going to put him in the bad spot by saying what I really need.”
“Even if they’re ugly answers or bad answers, we need the truth from him,” said Ackerson. “For him to say he’s not going to respond until the Mayor’s budget comes out that’s very concerning because the question then begs are we ever getting accurate information?”
“The Metro Council has always said to the Mayor let us know how many officers you need, and we’ll find the money to do that,” said James.
A spokesman for Mayor Greg Fischer’s office provided us this statement: Public safety is Mayor Fischer’s top priority, and that’s why nearly 60 percent of the city budget is devoted to public safety. When the Mayor presents his new budget next Thursday, citizens will see further investments in both short-term crime fighting via LMPD and long-term initiatives through Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods and other programs. The Mayor has to weigh the city’s many needs, from street paving to affordable housing to public safety and many others.
Councilwoman Angela Leet released a statement saying in part: "Chief Conrad is a good and decent man. He has served this community for decades in a fair and honorable way and I thank him for his willingness to put his life on the line to make our city a better place. Unfortunately, I believe the time has come for a change in leadership at the Louisville Metro Police Department. I will no longer sit by and say it is the Mayor’s call and hope that action would follow. Instead, I will step out and say that I no longer have the confidence that Chief Conrad has the ability to right the ship and help direct this city and its many neighborhoods to be the safe places we all desire."