Chief Steve Conrad announces elimination of LMPD's VIPER Unit - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Chief Steve Conrad announces elimination of LMPD's VIPER Unit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) - After three years in operation, LMPD's Viper Unit, which was designed to get Louisville's most violent criminals off the streets, is going away.

It's a change WDRB reported Thursday night after receiving an email sent to officers last week.

In it, officers were told that VIPER, or Operation Trust, is turning into the 9th Mobile Division.

LMPD Chief Steve Conrad confirmed the changes at a press conference Friday.

He said the overall goal is to reduce violent crime and to get the community involved in that effort.

"The idea is to be fast, flexible, and to be in a position to do what we can do to make Louisville safer," Chief Conrad said.

The VIPER Unit, which has about 30 detectives and commanders, was created in 2012.

The unit has made some significant arrests and has been given credit for reducing violent crime.

But the "re-branding" also comes after some high-profile incidents involving members of the VIPER unit.

When WDRB's Emily Mieure asked Chief Conrad if the changes had to do with a bad reputation VIPER has had in the last few years, he didn't necessarily agree with that assessment.

"I would take issue with your representation of VIPER's image," he said. "Those folks have worked hard to do a good job. They're taken many guns off the streets. There hasn't been many high-profile arrests that hasn't involved members of our VIPER unit. I think we saw great success over the years with things they did."

He did add, though, that the unit had its problems.

"There have been some leadership issues with VIPER that have been addressed."

One difference between VIPER and the new 9th Mobile Division is the officers will be uniformed.

Chief Conrad says that lessens confusion among community members.

"No one on VIPER or the task force was working in an undercover capacity," he said. "But they were wearing plain clothes, and I don't know that they were always readily identifiable as part of that unit. This way, people will know who they are."

Another change is some officers will rotate through the unit for six months at a time.

"The advantage of doing that is it allows additional staffing for the 9th Mobile Division, but it also allows the officers from those patrol divisions to get experience on the methods and techniques of addressing violent crime," Chief Conrad says.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer supports Chief Conrad's decision to do away with VIPER and launch the new mobile unit.

"Public safety is a team sport," Mayor Fischer said. "We don't do it alone with police. We don't do it alone with our neighborhoods. We do it with everybody."

Related: 

LMPD email: VIPER unit to be 're-branded' and 'uniformed'

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