LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro Police Lt. Jimmy Harper filed a whistleblower lawsuit against Metro Government on Monday, alleging he was demoted in retaliation for expressing concerns about the police department’s management.
Harper was removed from his high-ranking position of major last month as part of department-wide reorganization by Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Steve Conrad.
But in the suit, filed Monday in Jefferson Circuit Court, Harper claims he was demoted after he told Conrad that he had concerns about the chief’s leadership and also informed some Metro Council members about those issues.
"Somebody is going to be held accountable for what's been done to him and that somebody is Chief Conrad," said attorney Thomas Clay, who is representing Harper. Clay said the man witnesses in the suit would be Metro Council members and police officers who support Harper.
In the lawsuit, Harper claims he told Mayor Greg Fischer that dissolving a plainclothes crime-fighting unit known as the FLEX Platoon last year was a “wrong choice and that it would have serious negative effects in the community, especially in the West-End," thereby "raising his concerns of Chief Conrad's mismanagement of LMPD." Harper said, according to the suit, that Fischer had asked him for his opinion on the issue.
A few days later, Conrad told Harper not to speak to Fischer about “LMPD policy or strategy,” according to the lawsuit.
"His reward for telling the truth" was a demotion from commander of the 2nd Division, Clay told reporters Monday, adding that Harper took a $15,000 to $20,000 pay cut.
Harper also provided Councilman David James, a former LMPD officer, information about an Oct. 17, 2016, email concerning Victory Park gang members, according to the suit.
The suit claims Harper was then “immediately summoned” to Conrad’s office for giving James the information. Conrad told Harper he was giving James and other council members “too much information about crimes,” according to the suit.
The lawsuit includes a performance evaluation finding Harper had violated police rules by going outside the chain of command to address departmental issues. Conrad, according to the evaluation, had already counseled Harper about how criticism of the department could cause a negative impact.
Dwight Mitchell, a spokesman for police, declined to comment on pending litigation.
And Harper questioned the use of Violent Crime Reduction money given to the department from the city, which LMPD used at “an accelerated pace, and without strategy from Chief Conrad’s office, by flooding high crime areas with officers without coordination and proper planning.”
Harper told council members about the waste and lack of strategy, the suit says.
In addition, since April 2016, Harper has been providing “actual crime reporting and data via the true crime statistics” to provide an “accurate perspective” of crime in Louisville, the suit alleges.
On May 24, Conrad told Harper he could retire or be demoted a rank to Lieutenant, the suit claims. Harper accepted the demotion and was placed in command of the River Patrol.
The reason given for the demotion was that it was part of a larger reorganization of the department, but Clay said that is a "fabrication."
The lawsuit claims Harper made “good faith reports” of waste, fraud, abuse of authority and dangers to the city to the council, Fischer and superior officers. In response, he was given a written counseling statement and demoted, court documents claim.
The lawsuit is seeking a jury trial and unspecified monetary damages.
"I think it's time the community had an explanation as to why Major Harper was demoted, a truthful explanation," Clay said.
At the press conference, Clay said Harper could not talk without permission from LMPD.
"I'd love to but I can't," Harper told reporters.
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