LMPD email: VIPER unit to be 're-branded' and 'uniformed'
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Launched three years ago with much fanfare, the Louisville Metro Police Department’s VIPER unit is designed to hunt down the city’s most violent criminals.
But now the unit is being “re-branded,” according to an internal police email obtained by WDRB.
While the unit will continue its focus on “violent criminal activity and hotspot proactive enforcement,” it will be renamed the “9th Mobile Division.”
The email also says officers will be "uniformed." Currently, VIPER officers wear plain clothes. And the email suggests some officers will rotate through the unit for six months at a time.
The memo does not say if the new unit will grow or decrease in size.
The changes, which are expected to take place in September, were outlined Tuesday in an email from Major Troy Thompson to all sworn officers.
But LMPD spokesman Dwight Mitchell said the email was prematurely sent and has been recalled.
WDRB asked for an interview with Chief Steve Conrad about the potential changes to VIPER, but he declined through a spokesman. Mitchell said Conrad probably wouldn’t talk about the matter until next week.
“It’s the cart before the horse,” Mitchell said.
The unit is “looking for new officers” to assign to the division for six months at a time, according to the email.
Thompson called the change a “re-branding” of VIPER - which stands for Violent Incident Prevention, Enforcement and Response.
The VIPER Unit, which had about 30 detectives and commanders, was created shortly after a 2012 daylight shooting in which a woman pulled a gun and killed another woman in front of dozens of bystanders, police and media who were on the scene of a double homicide.
And the unit has made some high-profile arrests in homicide cases, seizing firearms and drugs. It was credited for reducing violent crime in nine out of ten areas it targeted in the unit’s first year.
But the re-branding also comes in the wake of some high-profile incidents involving members of the VIPER unit.
Last summer, the former head of the VIPER unit retired while under investigation into “allegations of misconduct,” according to police records. He had been reassigned while the investigation was ongoing.
Another member of the department’s VIPER unit, Det. Carl Payne, pleaded guilty earlier this year to official misconduct, for sending sexually explicit texts, pictures and videos to a woman he had arrested.
Payne, who resigned from the department, had also been arrested in Hardin County for driving drunk.
Sgt. Dave Mutchler, president of the River City Fraternal Order of Police, did not a return a phone message seeking comment. Mutchler came out in support of the VIPER Unit when the reorganization was announced in 2012.
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