Former LMPD Maj. Jimmy Harper says amid restructuring, he chose demotion despite loss in rank and pay
Former LMPD Maj. Jimmy Harper said he chose to stay on with the department after Chief Steve Conrad's staff changes last week, despite the loss in rank and pay.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Former LMPD Maj. Jimmy Harper said he chose to stay on with the department after Chief Steve Conrad's staff changes last week, despite the loss in rank and pay.
In a letter addressed to Metro Council, Harper said he still believes in good policing and in the Louisville community. He writes that Conrad gave him the option to retire, but he remained with the department as a lieutenant because his passion remained.
"As a dedicated public servant, my passion has always been to serve until I choose otherwise or can no longer be a contributor," Harper wrote.
This all stems from a restructuring last week in which Conrad announced a series of promotions and demotions on his command staff.
Many Metro Council members were upset with the moves, especially in relation to Harper, whom many saw as an invaluable asset to his district.
"Removing Harper is creating chaos in an already unstable department in the middle of a manpower, homicide and overdose crisis," FOP President Dave Mutchler said.
In his lengthy letter, Harper said he respects Conrad's decision and believes he's a good person.
Here is the full letter:
Based upon recent events, I thought it necessary to ensure all of you understand the position I have as a public servant to our community. At 4pm on Wednesday May 24th, I was informed by our Chief that he was moving the department once again in a different direction and I could choose to retire as a Major or be demoted. Should I choose to retire as a Major, I would go on vacation effective immediately and my career with LMPD would be over. Later that evening, I emailed the Chief and informed him that I was remaining with LMPD. I chose to remain despite the loss in rank, pay and yes, the loss I will endure monetarily in retirement should that day come anytime soon. Why, you may ask? I am still (believe it or not) a “Believer” in what good policing can do for our community, and I “Believe” in our community. In the 27 years I’ve served this department, not once did I ever place importance on my rank when I decided to retire. As a dedicated public servant, my passion has always been to serve until I choose otherwise or can no longer be a contributor.
I respect the Chief’s decision; he can appoint whomever he wants for his leadership team. I still believe he is a good person and will never think otherwise. However, in light of the steady decline in public safety and uprising in violent crimes, specifically murders and shootings, I have chosen to do what any “Good Leader” on LMPD should be expected to do by their community… Speak up when they believe a leadership strategy is not effective for its stakeholders. We should be expected to listen, accept input and criticism in an effort to do what is best for all of us. As a Major within LMPD, my success or failure was dependent upon that principal and practiced daily.
For the past 9 years I have faithfully served as a Major of the Louisville Metro Police Department. During that timeframe, I held the command position in 5 separate divisions within LMPD and each time I was reassigned, I was asked to improve the environment from morale of the officers to improving the safety of the community. At each stop there was always a need for transparency and partnership with the councilmembers representing those divisions. How could I not when those councilmembers deserved to know our system, what we were doing, and the real information about crime, good or bad? We could not ask you for assistance, which in my tenure was never denied, if you were not informed enough to make a good decision for the neighborhoods you represent. Although I was criticized for doing this, I knew transparency and honesty was how we would create a community-police shared vision.
Throughout my tenure as a Major, we accomplished a great deal and significantly impacted the dominant crime issue in each division. In the 6th division we legitimately dropped crime 29% in 3 months. How? We motivated the officers to work in the community focusing on the good people, which they did. From the massive amounts of car break-ins in the 7th division, to setting a new standard for the Narcotics division when it came to drug seizures that helped to reduce city-wide violent crime, to reducing burglaries in the 3rd division that averaged over 40 plus a week and 1200 a year to a standard where 15 a week is a terrible week for crime. Finally to the 2nd division where although we saw a significant reduction in officer headcount (change of strategy rolled out in November that eliminated the Flex units), we ended the year with a legitimate violent crime reduction and had 2 periods during the peak summer months where the division went 7 and 9 weeks consecutively without a murder.
Something not normally or recently experienced in our West End community, and helped prevent our violent crime and murder rate to soar even higher in our city. I felt compelled to mention the above transfers so you would know where I had served in the past 9 years. The above is not boasting or bragging as with each stop, and each time I was moved, I felt that we didn’t do enough and could do better. I was asked by Chief Conrad one year ago in April 2016 to move to the 2nd Division to correct a leadership problem made previously by him and his leadership team. To repair the low morale of the officers, dysfunctional community engagement, and rising crime in all areas. I leave feeling reasonably confident that we together, the officers, community, and councilmembers accomplished most of that. Teamwork made the difference once again.
Thursday morning of this past week I spoke to several officers of the 2nd Division. I told them what I did or do was not about me trying to be noble; it was about doing the right thing. What they do is noble for all of us living in the City of Louisville. The support I received from many of you, members of our community and over 700 individual phone calls and text messages from rank and file officers reminded me that I am truly blessed, humbled and yes, a very lucky person. It also confirms my decision to stay with the Louisville Metro Police Department.
Leadership matters more than anything in the policing profession and leaders must not be afraid to display and instill a passion for this profession in those protecting us. I have done this and strived to improve upon that in every station with the police department. Leaders expect and demand the best from those under their commands. Leaders develop others so that one day they may take their place. Leaders do not inhibit others striving to be leaders at the expense of protecting their own position they hold. Leaders are not afraid to challenge other leaders, the process, their strategies, or their decisions. Leaders accept those challenges in an effort to improve and do the right thing – Always. Leaders accept the decisions of their leaders regardless of agreement of strategy or process; do their very best with those strategies with the resources provided. Which I did every day, regardless of the difficulty it posed upon on all stakeholders, we can say we do our best.
The bottom line is leadership matters in every successful organization or endeavor in life. I refuse to believe that one great or even good leader cannot make a difference in any organization. I understand and expect to be held to blame should my personal leadership fail. I refuse to blame others for my failures, the truly good people in my community when the intent to see failure is not present. In a personal email I sent to the men and women of the 2nd Division I asked them to continue to do their very best despite whatever disappointment they may have based upon recent events. I closed with a favorite quote of mine by William Faulkner’s “Intruder in the Dust” which may very well epitomize the job of any public servant, elected or not. “Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash: your picture in the paper nor money in the bank either. Just refuse to bear them.” I personally asked them to refuse to accept allowing anything to keep them from doing what we all need them to do, and that is protect us no matter what they perceive the situation to be. I know they and I have complete faith that they will continue to do so.
Please know that I fully realize the risk that many of you have endeavored to undertake publicly in recent days and months. Leaders are risk takers and you clearly exhibited that to the community and men and women in law enforcement in our city. Trust me, the rank and file officers of LMPD did not, nor do they ever view anything you all do to question the LMPD as an attack on them or what they do. You are questioning the leadership, which is the right thing to do. Ask any of them and they will tell you the same. In fact, it appears you have motivated them and inspired them to work harder because of your fearless questioning.
I’ve had the honor and privilege of working with many of you over the years. Please know that this letter is not about anything other than ensuring all of you know the position I have taken in my career. While some may perceive what I was doing in my work with many of you as posturing for another position, that is far from the truth. My primary goal no matter where I am with the LMPD has and always will be to serve the City of Louisville. As the late, Greatest once quoted – “My principles are more important than the money or my title”. Muhammad Ali.
Thank you for the work you do in our community representing us. Should you wish to discuss anything further via phone or in person, please do not hesitate to let me know.
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