Conrad at Council

LMPD Chief Steve Conrad answered Metro Council's questions about traffic stop policies during a Tuesday night meeting. (WDRB Photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- For more than an hour Tuesday night, Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad was in Metro Council's hot seat.

"Chief Conrad, we have a very, very serious problem," Councilwoman Barbara Sexton Smith (D-District 4) said to the chief.

"Tell us more that makes that traffic stop not look as horrendous as it does," James Peden (R-District 23) added.

Conrad was called to explain LMPD policies after a traffic stop from August that recently surfaced. In it, an 18-year-old was stopped for making a wide right turn onto Dixie Highway. He was detained and even cuffed while officers frisked him and searched his car for weapons and drugs but found none.

"Traffic violations are now just a de facto term for 'stop and frisk,' and that's just wrong," Peden said.

Council rebuked the stop and so did the 18-year-old himself, Tae-Ahn Lea, who told members the unmarked officer started following him when he left a convenience store.

"I was going to get a slushie, a bag of chips and some money out of the ATM," Lea said.

Council asked Conrad about a so-called "aggressive traffic stop policy" that focuses on six crime-ridden neighborhoods, mostly in west Louisville.

"There's two different Louisvilles," Councilman Brent Ackerson (D-District 26) said. "There's a Louisville for black people, and there's a Louisville for white people. That's my perspective, and that's the greater root of this problem."

Conrad defended the strategy and said it's produced results.

"Since January of this year ... [the Ninth Mobile Unit] seized 205 guns," he said. "Seventeen of them were in the hands of juveniles."

Lea experienced different results. He said it's changed his view of the police.

"If you ain't do nothing wrong, then you ain't got nothing to worry about, but that's obviously not true in this situation," he said.

Conrad said the case is being reviewed by LMPD's Professional Standards Unit. Late Tuesday night, he did release the following statement:

I want to thank the Metro Council and the many citizens who attended tonight’s important committee meeting. These are tough discussions, but we must have them. The men and women of Louisville Metro Police work hard every day to make this community safer. They face difficult decisions and often dangerous circumstances and do their best to resolve them professionally and peacefully. 

It is clear to me there is a great deal of work to be done. Officers must have the trust of this community or we will not be able to create the safer city we all want. I am committed to doing what it takes to establish stronger relationships rooted in trust and legitimacy. I hear the concerns voiced, and I will take action based on these concerns after we have some time to review our policies, data, and best practices. 

I ask citizens to stay engaged with this department. Continue to share your ideas and concerns. Work with us to create a city where we all thrive.

Conrad says he will review the department's traffic stop data and policies.

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