LMPD chief says during whistleblower trial that overtime monitoring is his responsibility
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Testimony continued Thursday in a whistleblower lawsuit filed by a Louisville Metro Police officer against the city.
For the second day in a row, LMPD Chief Steve Conrad was grilled about issues with police overtime. On Wednesday, Conrad testified that there were “some abuses” by officers of $1.2 million in overtime funds the city gave police in December 2016 to boost patrols in high-crime areas.
The testimony was part of a whistleblower lawsuit filed by LMPD Lt. Jimmy Harper last summer. Harper claims he was demoted because he expressed concerns about the management of the department outside the chain of command with various elected city officials.
A WDRB News 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 officers to rest or avoid marathon shifts.
“Who was responsible for monitoring how that overtime money was being expended?” asked attorney Thomas Clay, who is representing Harper in the suit.
“Ultimately, me," Conrad answered. "I'm responsible for what happens inside the police department."
The department spent nearly $800,000 of the $1.2 million in funding by the end of February.
Conrad testified on Thursday that he did not learn about the possible abuse of overtime until the WDRB story was published.
Harper said he tried to alert several Metro Council members about the issue in Jan. 2017.
“I don't believe now, I didn't believe then that Harper was blowing any whistles,” Conrad said.
Harper was demoted from major to lieutenant and moved to the river patrol unit in May 2017.
Conrad said there were a total of seven issues why Harper was demoted. Some included that Harper was “an administrative nightmare,” often insubordinate and went outside of the chain of command. Those claims were backed on Thursday by former LMPD Lt. Col Kim Kraeszig
“When he went to the Second Division, I just felt like something changed with Maj. Harper, and one of the things was his attitude,” Kraeszig said.
Kraeszig is now the chief of police in Bardstown.
Another key point focused on during testimony was the decision by Conrad to disband so-called Flex platoons, a decision that Harper did not agree with at the time.
The Flex platoons were division-level units made up of detectives that had flexibility in hours and investigative resources. Conrad decided to disband the units in favor of bulking up the narcotics unit in 2016.
Shortly thereafter, Harper and Mayor Greg Fischer had a conversation about the decision where Harper voiced his displeasure. This is one of the instances when Conrad said Harper went outside of the chain of command. Harper’s attorneys say that was a protected whistleblower communication, because it expressed concerns about the management of the department.
Testimony is expected to continue Friday morning.
Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.