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'We're at a dire level': Nearly 100 LMPD officers eligible to retire as staffing shortage continues

Open records show nine officers have already put pen to paper, with several more expected to join them in the days to come.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — July 31 could mark a bittersweet moment for Louisville Metro Police (LMPD) as they plan to congratulate officers retiring after years of service while simultaneously suffering more losses to its staff.

Through an open records request, WHAS11 learned 95 police officers, sergeants, lieutenants and others have the option to call it a career at the department starting on Sunday.

The data shows nine of them have already put pen to paper, some finishing up as early as Aug. 1 -- with several more expected to join them in the days to come, according to LMPD Union President Ryan Nichols.

Nichols said it's typical to see nearly a fifth of eligible officers opt to retire each cycle. But given the current shortage, each loss adds to an already sizable gap.

"I would say we are at a dire level. We need officers," Nichols said.

As of Wednesday, LMPD said it has 1,038 sworn officers, almost 300 short of the 1,328 it can hold.

RELATED: 'We have a lot of work ahead of us:' LMPD presents budget proposal to Metro Council

Nichols told WHAS11 while retirements always take a toll, they're actually down compared to the last couple years. Not including this next group, he said 37 officers have either retired or resigned so far in 2022.

But he said resignations overall are still up, and recruiting difficulties continue to be at the crux of the issue -- causing net losses.

"If the trend continues, and we continue to experience a net loss, we will be at a catastrophic level," Nichols said.

Eighteen recruits graduated to become LMPD officers in the department's last class from late May, and police said they have another one coming up in August. Nichols said that class will graduate 17 recruits, far lower than the 48 they have the capacity to hold in each group.

Meanwhile, Metro Council President and former LMPD detective David James (D-District 6) said he's pleased with retirement numbers returning to levels of years past, but he said the lack of people wanting to become police officers remains the biggest concern.

"[It's partly] because of the national climate around policing," James said. "This has been going on for several years."

Fellow Councilmember and retired police major Mark Fox (D-District 13) echoed those concerns.

"Police officers tell me it's just not worth the trouble anymore," Fox said.

On Wednesday, James said he can see recent salary increases already helping, but he's looking to a new mayor's administration to further bridge the gap.

Nichols also believes a new admin will help chip away at the shortage.

"Where officers feel supported in their work environment, and that the pay and benefits are above other places," he said.

LMPD wasn't available for interview, but said it's appreciative to those who have served over the years and is encouraging folks to apply.

RELATED: Metro Police SWAT officers sue for overtime pay

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