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Harper: My career was ruined for doing the right thing

An economic analyst estimated Harper's demotion cost him $338,964.00 in pay and pension benefits.

LOUISVILLE (WHAS11) -- Taking the witness stand in the trial for the whistle-blower lawsuit he filed against the city, Louisville Metro Police Lieutenant Jimmy Harper told jurors his demotion from major was life imitating art.

Harper said he became the butt of a running joke in the department after his demotion, referencing the HBO hit The Wire and its lead character, Jimmy McNulty, a highly skilled detective whose outspoken behavior and penchant for rubbing police officials the wrong way, landed him in the undesirable river patrol as punishment.

"I said River Patrol loudly," Harper recalled from the phone call where Chief Steve Conrad broke the news he was heading to the river patrol, "We laugh about it…I was laughed at and made fun of about it...you got 'McNultied' because the character in that TV show got sent to the river patrol.

Harper said the move was one of several by Conrad to retaliate against the veteran officer after Harper criticized Conrad's decision to get rid of the department's flex platoons, which target hot-spot crime areas in Harper's district.

He said the platoons had been making progress in fighting violent crime.

He told jurors he was being honest about his concern for public safety when the mayor asked his opinion. He said responding to the mayor's request was not the equivalent of going outside the chain of command.

"I just clearly pointed out that this is not a good idea , not when you start building momentum the way we were and things were working."

Being demoted, Harper said, was a painful reminder of a separate whistleblower lawsuit against the city, which Harper was also part of.

The city of Louisville settled a lawsuit filed by Barron Morgan, a former detective, who, along with Harper and another detective fought to find evidence that exonerated a woman who was wrongly convicted. Harper said the detectives were effectively pushed out of the department. Harper is the only one still employed by LMPD.

"The humiliation for what both of them had to go through, you reach a breaking point and I apologized to them and I haven't had a chance to tell them that I carry that guilt because I was powerless to stop it," Harper sobbed to the jury.

Given his own circumstances, Harper said he never expected to do what he thought was the right thing would cost him his job.

"My career is over," he said fighting tears, "When I walk out this door my career is over; I hang my badge up, it's over, I've had my career ruined over this stuff for trying to do the right thing," adding, "That's why I tried to fight for it to get it back."

Harper is scheduled to return to the witness stand Tuesday morning and will be followed by Metro Councilwoman Jessica Green and Harper's wife as witnesses.

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