The union representing Louisville Metro Police officers has filed a grievance against the department over its reorganization, arguing some of the actions “needlessly” put officers’ positions at stake.
LMPD Chief Steve Conrad has said the reorganization, which includes merging some units and divisions, is necessary because of a shrinking department and budget cuts that left the police force “having to do more with less.”
But the process has been flawed, the Fraternal Order of Police grievance claims.
Some of the moves made during the department’s ongoing restructuring, the document obtained by The Courier Journal alleges, are actually just reductions in assigned personnel, not a reorganization, and other transfer moves are not because of the reorganization.
The process has led to a “level of unrest” for officers in affected divisions, said River City FOP Lodge 614 Vice President Ryan Nichols.
“When officers aren’t secure in even where they’re going to be working a week into the future, I feel that’s not a good environment for the best level of performance for all the officers,” Nichols said. “They’re looking at readjusting, potentially, their entire livelihood.”
The Air Unit, for example, has remained part of the Special Operations Division, according to the grievance, and all that changed was the number of assigned personnel. Still, personnel in the division were told they had to reapply for their positions.
And any division member could apply for any position, “regardless of whether the officer held a position in the unit applied for,” said the grievance, signed by union President Nicolai Jilek on Jan. 16.
In another example, the merger of the Ninth Mobile and Narcotics divisions, LMPD similarly didn’t determine which officers would be transferred out of the division. Instead, it had personnel reapply and, again, all officers were allowed to apply for any position, regardless of whether they had held that position.
“That action was not necessitated by the merger — the merger was not the reason to tell them they no longer had the position assigned to them under the terms of the CBA (collective bargaining agreement),” the grievance said. “Nor was the merger cause for requiring re-applications.”
The department is allowed to reorganize, the grievance said, and that reorganization can lead to a reduction in personnel by “transfers out of reorganized units.”
But, it said, the department “may not select the personnel to be transferred by removing all personnel from a division and requiring them to reapply. That error is compounded by allowing anyone in the division to apply for any position.”Get the On Kentucky Politics newsletter in your inbox.
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Nichols said it would have made more sense if the department offered the available positions based on seniority, for example, instead of having all officers reapply for the specialized spots.
The grievance requests that LMPD stop the current practice and return all “improperly transferred” officers to the positions they held before their involuntary moves.
In a statement released Wednesday afternoon, Conrad said the department has shared information about the reorganization with the union representing Louisville Metro Police officers and signaled the grievance process would continue.
“As we begin the process of a reorganization forced by a reduction in sworn officers, we continue to keep the FOP informed. Any specific concerns will be addressed through the grievance process,” he said.
The reorganization of the department, which went into effect Dec. 1, combined four divisions into two, amid officer retirements, resignations from the force and the loss of one police recruit class last year.
Those changes meant officers in specialized units were asked to reapply for positions, and an estimated two dozen were to be sent back to patrol divisions.
Conrad has hinted that further changes could be ahead — he said in December that his command staff is in “planning stages” for further reorganization or examination of the Major Crimes Division, responsible for the bulk of the department’s investigations.
A spokeswoman for the department, Jessie Halladay, said around that time that the Administrative Services Division could also undergo a reorganization at the start of 2020, depending on staffing needs of the patrol divisions.
The department has about 1,200 sworn officers, but Conrad has estimated the rolls will decline by dozens before the end of June — and Louisville is expected to contend with another ballooning pension bill before then, as the state-set payment continues to rise.