LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville Metro Council on Thursday approved a new contract for captains and lieutenants in the city’s police department over the objections of a vocal group of demonstrators inside council chambers.

What You Need To Know

  • Metro Council approved a new contract for LMPD lieutenants and captains

  • The FOP and Mayor Fischer praised the approval 

  • Eight Democratic members voted against the contract and protesters in the council chanted "Shame on you"

  • The contract provides a significant raise and implements several accountability measures

The new contract provides a substantial pay raise, with starting salary for lieutenants increasing from $98,000 to $123,100 in fiscal year 2023. It also guarantees a raise for all union members every two years. 

The contract contains some reforms too, including changes to disciplinary procedures and new requirements for alcohol and drug testing after an officer's action “that does, or potentially could, result in death or serious physical injury.”

In a statement praising the contract’s passage, the River City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) said, “Supporting and approving this contract now is a critical step that may allow this department to retain the future of LMPD leadership.” 

Mayor Greg Fischer echoed the sentiment in a tweet after the contract was passed. “A new FOP police contract will help us retain and attract the best and brightest police force,” he wrote. 

LMPD Chief Erika Shields has said that the department is down nearly 250 officers, forcing her to make tough decisions about what to prioritize. She spoke about the issue this summer on the LMPD’s podcast

“I’ve had to weigh whether we put more cops in homicide,” she said. “Do we put more cops in the street to get guns off the street that are causing the homicides? Or do we pull individuals out of investigative units?”

While passage of the contract Thursday will increase pay for lieutenants, officers and sergeants remain without a new contract of their own. Last August, the FOP and the mayor’s office agreed to a new contract that would have raised pay for rank-and-file officers by 9%, but union members rejected that deal. In its statement following Thursday’s vote, the FOP said, “The goal now is to work diligently to negotiate a contact that is acceptable to our officers and sergeants.”

Voices of opposition

The contract passed with 18 “Yes” votes and eight "No" votes, all from Democrats. Those who spoke in opposition raised concerns about insufficient accountability measures in the contract and a lack of transparency. Once the contract passed, demonstrators exited the chamber chanting “Shame on you.”

Several council members spoke against a provision in the contract that allows for informal complaints to be erased after two years. 

“I believe sunshine is the best disinfectant and, as we’re thinking about ways that we’re trying to hold officers accountable, we need to be able to have all of the information before us,” said Council Member Cassie Chambers Armstrong, D8-D. She said the provision could make it more difficult to institute an early warning system meant to identify members of the police force who need additional training to correct problematic behavior.

Council Member Jecorey Arthur, D4-D, called out other provisions of the contract that he would have liked to change. 

“If we want accountability in the next contract, let’s end paid suspension for police misconduct,” he said. “If we want accountability, let's make sure use of force is a fireable offense.”

He also addressed Fischer’s office as it prepares to re-open negotiations on the contract for officers and sergeants. “After all of this talk about transparency, what you could do is open up negotiations for the public,” he said. 

The secretive nature of the FOP contract negotiations has been a problem for activists since last winter, when one group circulated a petition calling on Fischer to open them to the public. The ground rules for the negotiations prevented that, the mayor’s office said. 

“If the department truly intends to regain the community’s trust, the public should have the opportunity to have meaningful input and engagement in the process.” said Angela Cooper, a spokesperson for the ACLU of Kentucky. “This contract dictates the terms under which law enforcement engage with the public, and a transparent process is the only way to begin to rebuild the relationship between police and the communities they serve.”