Louisville police chief says convicted felons are 'coming back too quickly'

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Jefferson County Attorney’s office on Monday will ask a judge to prohibit attorneys representing an officer in a whistleblower lawsuit from asking Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad in a deposition about the department’s investigation into allegation of sex abuse in a police mentoring program for young people.

Attorneys for Lt. Jimmy Harper, who claims he was demoted as retaliation for expressing concerns about the department’s management, have already taken the deposition of Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer and asked him about the Explorer investigation.

Conrad is scheduled to be questioned on Tuesday, and then the deposition could be made public.

Assistant County Attorney Lisa Schweickart wrote in a motion filed Thursday that attorneys will likely ask Conrad about the investigation, even though it is not the focus of Harper’s lawsuit or relevant to the case.

If a judge does not issue a protective order preventing attorneys from asking about the investigation, Schweickart is requesting the deposition be delayed until the criminal cases involving officers indicted on sex abuse charges and civil lawsuits are completed.

The motion will be heard Monday by Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Angela McCormick Bisig.

Thomas Clay, an attorney for Harper, said Harper was demoted from major because he was giving council members information, including what he was hearing about the allegations involving the Explorer program.

“And there are substantial issues about the chief’s actions related to the Explorer program we want to ask about, including his lack of action when the initial complaint was made in 2013,” Clay said.

In a deposition last week, Harper testified he begged Louisville Metro Council members to get an outside agency to investigate the sex scandal.

"We knew this in 2013 as a police department," Harper said, breaking down. "We had kids ... and then knowing that another allegation is made. How many kids between that time did we let get hurt and harmed for our inaction and not investigating that program that we should have? And it angered me, because it was wrong."

But Schweickart said Harper’s knowledge of the Explorer scandal is limited to rumors and what he has seen in the media.

Clay said it doesn't matter if Harper was passing along rumors to members of the council, saying the chief demoted him because he was sharing information. 

Of the four lawsuits filed by alleged victims against LMPD thus far, three are sealed and the other is on hold until December, and it is likely the city will ask judges to delay turning over evidence in those cases until the criminal charges against officers are resolved, Schweickart wrote.

Last summer, Conrad gave Harper the option to take a demotion or retire as part of a department-wide reorganization.

Harper refused to retire. He expressed concern to Fischer about Conrad's call to move officers from each division to form a full-time SWAT team. He also told several Louisville Metro Council members the police department was blowing more than $1 million in taxpayer-funded overtime, with little planning or effect on crime reduction. 

Harper said the chief told him he was sharing too much.

During Fischer’s deposition, he said he had not been briefed on the status of LMPD’s investigation

In March, a lawsuit was filed that accused LMPD officials of covering up the rape of a teenage boy who was a member of the Explorer Program.

In July of 2013, an internal investigation was launched concerning allegations that Officer Kenneth Betts sent a 16-year-old girl shirtless pictures of himself and asked her to "make out."

During the course of that investigation, a male teenager told police investigators that Betts offered him money for sex.

There was never an investigation into what the male teen said, and Conrad closed the case “by exception” because Betts resigned. Conrad wrote in a memo that “no further action was needed.” 

Betts was implicated along with former officer Brandon Wood. Both former officers were indicted on sex abuse charges in March. 

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