LMPD chief said he's not aware of any probe into overtime spending
“As long as the time is being worked, I don’t see any problem with that,” Chief Steve Conrad said about officers working lots of overtime.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad said he's not aware of any departmental review into overtime abuse in the two months after the city gave police $1.2 million last December to boost patrols in high-crime areas.
In testimony this week in a whistleblower lawsuit against the department, Conrad was asked about a WDRB News story that described how several officers worked up to 21-hour days, every day for weeks or months, including weekends, and racked up enormous amounts of overtime hours.
Louisville Metro Police Officer Todd Roadhouse, for example, worked more than 200 hours during the first two weeks of January, including back-to-back 17-hour days. He followed that with a 21-hour day, according to his time slips. In all, his workload during that time yielded about 120 hours of overtime.
An attorney for Lt. Jimmy Harper, who claims he was demoted as retaliation for expressing concerns about the department’s management, asked Conrad in a deposition Tuesday if he or anyone with the department had scrutinized those hours or launched an investigation.
“I haven’t; I don’t know if (anyone with the department) has or hasn’t,” Conrad said, according to a copy of the deposition, adding he didn't see a need for an investigation.
As far as he knows, the chief told attorney Thomas Clay, there is no reason to believe any of the officers abused the system.
But Conrad said he may not know if a criminal investigation has been launched.
Conrad acknowledged some of the funds from Metro government may not have been spent efficiently, noting his executive staff was not clear as to his direction that the overtime funding should last through the fiscal year, which ended June 30.
About half of the money had already been used by late January, when Conrad learned about the spending and slowed it down.
“I expected the funds to last throughout the fiscal year,” he said. “I clearly did not give them clear instructions…. I thought when we first got that money we would need more of that money in spring and summer, when we typically have more” violent crime.
Each division commander was responsible for managing the overtime hours, Conrad said.
"I didn't put controls in place," he said in the three-hour deposition. "I provided direction to the command staff."
The department spent nearly $800,000 of the $1.2 million in funding by the end of February.
Louisville Metro Police spokesman Sgt. John Bradley agreed last Thursday to do an interview with WDRB News about the overtime spending but then failed to return repeated phone messages and emails. No one from LMPD has responded since the report was published and broadcast Monday.
Conrad was asked by Clay why Bradley did not follow through on the interview with WDRB.
“It’s being addressed as we speak,” Conrad said. “I have members of my command staff following up to find out why that didn’t happen. There’s no reason we shouldn’t have responded to this article.”
WDRB specifically asked to speak with Conrad through the LMPD public information office. In his deposition, Conrad said he didn’t find out about the article until he read it.
He said no one told him about the interview request, though someone “likely” should have.
In an email Wednesday afternoon, Bradley declined to comment on Conrad's testimony.
"If this quote is, as you say, lifted from sworn testimony, it is highly inappropriate for any public official to discuss such testimony while litigation involving that evidence is pending," Bradley said. "This topic having become a matter of relevancy in litigation, ethical guidelines prohibit any response from LMPD or its members until such time as court proceedings have concluded."
The WDRB investigation found officers worked weeks or months without taking a day off -- including weekends -- logging what experts say would be either suspicious or dangerously long hours. Yet the department has no internal policies meant to force all officers to rest or avoid marathon shifts.
Conrad said he wasn't aware of those details but said officers in patrol must take breaks before working again after a 12-hour shift. There are no such controls for other officers, those not on patrol, so they can work as many hours as they want if the overtime is not mandatory, he said.
“I know Roadhouse (works) in narcotics,” Conrad said.
Clay asked if there would be a problem with Officer Billy Keltner working 196 hours – 116 hours of overtime – including a 19-hour day and two 17-hour days in the first two weeks of January, and not taking any days off for the month.
“No,” he said, “other than needing to self-monitor to make sure they are not tired. I’m not aware of any complaints, any problems, I’m not aware of any concerns other than this article about officers working long hours.”
Members of the metro council and police experts told WDRB it would be dangerous to the officer and community to work so many long hours every day without days off.
Roadhouse’s time slips, obtained under the Kentucky Open Records Act, show he worked 84 consecutive days from January 1 to March 25, logging, on average, about 12 hours a day.
“That is just shocking,” said Metro Council member David James, a former police officer, in an interview last week. “That is poor supervision. That is poor oversight throughout the chain of command. I don’t understand how that could happen.”
Read that quote, Conrad said he did not agree.
“As long as the time is being worked, I don’t see any problem with that,” Conrad said. He said he was unaware of any of the officers falsely claiming they were working overtime, or working a secondary job while they were supposed to be on duty.
In addition to the LMPD overtime, three of the five officers that made the most overtime money – Roadhouse and Officers Mark Final and Dennis Poteet – worked secondary jobs at the same time.
Final worked every day in February, including weekends, averaging about 12 hours a day, for the police department while also working a secondary job providing security at Male High School, according to records.
“As long as he wasn’t fatigued to the point he couldn’t do his job,” Conrad told Clay he had no problem with this.
He disagreed with Thomas Barker, a long-time professor of criminal justice at Eastern Kentucky University and a former Birmingham, Ala., police officer who told WDRB that working so many hours would be dangerous.
“You can’t work a 21-hour day and be a functioning person,” Barker said. “I don’t believe it. I flat do not believe that. This is an obvious padding of work hours to receive extra compensation. If I was a city council member, I would ask for an audit.”
Conrad said people in the department were aware that certain officers – he mentioned Roadhouse specifically - were working long hours and “I don’t think it was perceived as dangerous…. It was no secret they were working a lot of overtime.”
Supervisors would know about the overtime and “no one raised concerns,” Conrad testified.
The council is expected to ask Conrad about the issue at a hearing in early December.
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