Conrad named police chief, will keep two finalists as deputy chiefs

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by Joe Arnold

WHAS11.com

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 6:37 PM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 21 at 10:56 PM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Saying he accepts Mayor Greg Fischer's challenge to make Louisville the "safest city in America," Glendale, Arizona police Chief Steve Conrad was named Louisville Metro Police Chief on Tuesday.

"He's a team builder and a strong communicator who highly involved his troops and a community into building a safer city," Fischer said.

“Steve has deep knowledge of Louisville — its neighborhoods, its people, its history — but he also has an outsider’s perspective," Fischer said, "having left his hometown to serve as chief in Glendale.  He has a passion for law enforcement, for Louisville and for LMPD, which was evident from the time I spent with him in Arizona over the weekend and from the many Arizona citizens that I interviewed about him.”

A cop in Louisville for 25 years, including as assistant chief under Robert White, Conrad is coming home after seven years in Arizona.

"I am not Chief White.  I have my own style.  I have my own approach.  But, I'm not a caretaker.  We are about making things better and we can do that together."

“I couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity to lead the Louisville Metro Police Department,” he said. “It is an incredible organization filled with men and women who are willing to do what it takes to make our community safer. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to work with them again.”

In selecting Conrad, Fischer passed over both of LMPD's deputy chiefs who were also finalists for the job, Vince Robison and Yvette Gentry.  Conrad says he will keep both in their current positions.

"I am looking forward to the opportunity to working with the two of them as we move forward and lead this department," Conrad said.

Both Robison and Gentry have strong bases of support within the department.  And, several African-American community leaders were pushing Gentry's candidacy to succeed the community's first African-American police chief, Robert White.

Shortly after the Mayor's Gallery news conference, civil rights veteran Rev. Charles Elliott aired his concerns directly to Conrad.

"I was disappointed that she was not the one that they picked," said Elliott, the pastor of King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church.  "I talked with (Metro Chief Administrative Officer) Bill Summers and Bill had me to know that this young man is the best man at this time."

Yet, Louisville NAACP President Raoul Cunningham says none of the five finalists raised any red flags and he is satisfied that the selection process was fair.

"We made sure in conversations with the Fischer administration that diversity was utilized throughout the process," Cunningham said.

“You always want to make progress, but because you did have the first (African-American police chief), we never maintained that the next one would have to be African-American," Cunningham added.

"I would not ever want the city to say that you've had one (black chief), you can't have another," Cunningham said to reporters, "Likewise, I would flip that and I would not want the city to say, the last one was black, the next one has to be and the next one has to be.  I think we get way off base when we start playing that type of game."

Cunningham said that the NAACP did not meet with Conrad but that he received high marks from the Arizona NAACP.

Conrad met with police in all eight divisions on Tuesday and plans meetings with different community groups, including the NAACP, on Wednesday.  He will also appear live on WHAS11 News at Noon.

The new police chief grew up in eastern Jefferson County and said that even if he had not been hired as LMPD chief, he still would have eventually moved home to Louisville.

Conrad, his wife and daughter have a home in the Saratoga Woods subdivision near Jeffersontown.

He will be paid $165,000 per year and starts his new job on March 19.

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