Louisville Metro Police Chief Steve Conrad needs to resign.
The time and circumstances warrant the 63-year-old police chief turn the department over to new leadership.
By continuing to serve, he perpetuates skepticism over whether his police department is capable of protecting and administering equitable, transparent justice for every part of the community.
The recent killing of Breonna Taylor is just the latest — albeit, possibly the most troubling — of several incidents involving the police department under Conrad’s command that could have warranted his removal.
The Explorer Scout scandal — the sexual molestation of children by officers — was alone horrific enough to justify overhauling the department.
Conrad still has yet to exhibit the same outrage felt by the city, much less provide the transparency and leadership the victims deserve.
There was the mismanagement of emergency anti-violence funding — $6.2 million in emergency funding was supposed to last six months but was exhausted in just six weeks. Three of Conrad’s officers were sentenced to probation and ordered to repay $170,000 after they admitted to falsifying overtime records. This not only left the department shorthanded, but it was ineffective in combating violent crime, which actually increased during this time period.
And Louisville still can’t get its gun violence problem under control.
City officials say 2020 is on pace to match the city’s worst year, 2016, when there were 504 shootings, 118 fatal, according to The Courier Journal.
Conrad survived a no-confidence vote from the Metro Council in 2017. He brushed off a damning vote of no-confidence from the Fraternal Order of Police in 2016.
When questioned about department morale and officers leaving the force last September, Conrad said, “I think the morale of our officers is up to the individual.” (He later apologized for that comment.)
Conrad needs to take it upon himself to acknowledge that he is ultimately responsible for all that has transpired — which brings us back to Breonna Taylor.
Taylor’s death should be looked at against the backdrop of the multiple instances of police profiling and stopping people Driving While Black.
One example that comes to mind is when a cop stopped Rev. Kevin Cosby, pastor of St. Stephen Church and president of Simmons College, and fumbled his way to accusing Cosby of making an illegal turn.
Another was when an 18-year-old was cited for a “wide turn” and had his car torn apart and inspected by a drug dog in broad daylight.
Conrad defended the latter incident by citing LMPD’s “pretextual” stops policy (translation: pretextual — a synonym for racial profiling).
It’s good that the FBI will be overseeing the investigation into the circumstances that preceded and ultimately ended Breonna Taylor’s life. Perhaps the investigation will reveal the facts, and appropriate justice will be served… whatever that means.
But, even in this hard-to-imagine scenario, any confidence that justice is fairly administered will come from the FBI, not LMPD.
How does that help repair relations with Louisville’s Black community? How does that repair Louisville’s reputation, which has been tarnished nationally?
There will be debate over LMPD policies and operating procedures. But how, after eight years and a résumé full of scandals and resistance to transparency, can this community believe Conrad is capable of bringing the reforms needed?
Conrad’s opportunity to be a reformer has passed.
He owes it to those in this community who believe he has failed to represent a fair, transparent and socially equitable police department — whose faith in the department is lost.
He owes it to Mayor Greg Fischer, who has stood by Conrad through scandals, wrongdoing and mismanagement, and which promises to be the biggest scar on the mayor’s legacy.
He owes it to the family and friends of Breonna Taylor.
And, he owes it to the rest of us, who are embarrassed to see Louisville in the national news for the shooting of an unarmed woman in her own home. •