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The Louisville Fraternal Order of Police chapter is set to vote Tuesday on a settlement with Metro Government over take home cars.

Last week, the FOP website reported that the city had tentatively agreed to drop fees on officers who use their cars off duty and to repay the officers for the fees that have been collected since they were first imposed in 2008. It’s estimated the settlement would tentatively cost the city about $1 million, though most of the money collected through the fees has reportedly been kept in escrow.

The FOP’s roughly 1,200 members will vote on the settlement Tuesday evening. The Courier-Journal reports that FOP president Dave Mutchler–who has not returned calls for comment–sent officers an e-mail asking them to support the settlement, and stressed four of its provisions:

* The city will reimburse each current and former sworn member for all gasoline fees paid prior to the agreement, or for nearly three years.

* No gasoline fees will be charged to members who do not use a Louisville Metro Police Department vehicle in conjunction with secondary employment.

* Members will pay a gasoline fee for each month in which they use a police vehicle in association with secondary employment. Such fees may fluctuate and will be determined based on the average monthly retail price for a gallon of regular gasoline.

* The agreement will be in force for two years.

Alleging wrongful arrest, a sixth person has joined the lawsuit against former Louisville police detective Crystal Marlowe and current Chief Robert White.

from the C-J:

Vaughn Carter alleges he was charged Feb. 5, 2008 with a robbery he did not commit, was in jail for three days and had to spend time and money expunging his record after the charges were eventually dismissed.

As mentioned on WFPL, Mayor Greg Fischer and the Fraternal Order of Police will begin negotiating this week on the long-standing take home car case.

For more than two years, previous Mayor Jerry Abramson and the FOP fought over whether the city can impose fees on officers who use their cars off-duty. The last court ruling in case was against the city, which had imposed the fees, though an appeal remains. Fischer and FOP president Dave Mutchler say they have high hopes for the out-of-court talks. The conversations between the administration and the FOP will keep going, though, since the police contract expires this summer.

In regards to fresh starts (as the Mayor calls them), here are two quotes from recent news. First, from Mutchler:

“It’s very evident to me that this is a completely different administration as it regards to the police and the FOP,” he says. “We’re looking forward to being able to sit down, like we have recently even, and negotiate these things.”

Next, from Metro Councilman Kelly Downard, on the review of Metro Animal Services:

“He [Fischer] just got here. So I think he’s moved…on the 5th day, that’s pretty quick,” says Downard. “We’ve had a situation that’s been going on for several years and nobody did a thing. I think he’s moved at a lickety-split pace.”

As Fischer announces more “fresh starts,” it will be interesting to see how many of the mayor’s critics or opponents make similar statements.

This week, the Courier-Journal ran a front-page story on a restructuring in the Louisville Metro Police Department. The force will focus more on fighting drugs and gangs.

The Ville Voice says the plan sounds like the one Councilman Jim King pitched when he was running for mayor.

Your thoughts?

On Thursday, Louisville Metro Police Officer Paul Pegram was hit by an SUV and killed while riding his bicycle in Spencer County.

From Broken Sidewalk:

Pegram was off duty at the time and was stopped on the shoulder of Briar Ridge Road.  Both Pegram and the driver lived within two miles of the crash site.  According to LMPD, Pegram enjoyed cycling and would ride several times a week.  The driver told police he didn’t see Pegram on his bike before the collision.

Briar Ridge Road, also known as State Highway 248, is a winding rural two-lane undivided road with a posted speed limit of 55 mph.  Even at only 40 mph, the chances of surviving a collision with a car are only 15 percent, so an impact at 55 mph would be even worse.

On Friday, Police Chief Robert White was asked about Officer Pegram, the accident and cycling. Here is the full audio of his remarks. (MP3)

Louisville isn’t the only city having trouble with its take-home car program.

In this city and many others, police officers are allowed to use their cars off-duty (at little or no expense to the officers). Proponents of the program say it gives the police more presence in the community. In Louisville, Metro Government has attempted to charge for the cars, but has repeatedly lost legal battles over whether it can impose fees without negotiating with the police union.

We’ve reported that the take-home cars cost Louisville millions of dollars*, but would the city lose more money if it stopped the program?

A study out of Cape Coral, Florida (population 162,852) suggests the city’s (Cape Coral’s, not Louisville’s) take-home police car program saves money. (h/t to NA Confidential)

The cost savings more than outweighs the benefits of requiring officers to return the cars to the police department after shifts end, the Assigned Vehicle Police Evaluation by FGCU’s Southwest Florida Center for Public and Social Policy said. The savings is between $3 million and $12 million.

The study also found that response times to emergencies improved when a take-home policy is used, not only in the Cape department but other departments across the state. More than 75 percent of all Florida law enforcement departments allow their officers to bring cars home, the study said.

Cape Coral’s program and situation is much different than Louisville’s, but it’s interesting to see another city grappling with this issue. In Louisville’s case, there seems to be little arguing over whether the take-home program is effective, but only if the cars count as payment to officers, or are a job perk.

*This story on the cost of the fleet took other city vehicles (like department directors’ cars) into account.

Over at WFPL I reported on the impending politicization of Police Chief Robert White‘s job, which some mayoral candidates warned about and said they weren’t comfortable with in the primary. Police chiefs are often part of a mayor’s legacy, and the choice can say a lot about a candidate’s priorities when it comes to not only crime control, but also the relationship between law enforcement and citizens.

Louisville Police Chief Robert White’s job status could soon become an issue in the mayor’s race.

Mayor Jerry Abramson hired White in 2003, and the mayor sees White as part of his legacy. But with Abramson leaving office at the end of the year, White has applied for jobs in other cities. He was passed over this week for a job in Atlanta, and now he says he will stay in Louisville at least through the fall election.

Democratic candidate Greg Fischer says, if elected, he will keep White on staff. Abramson supports Fischer in the mayor’s race, and Friday said White could be an asset in the campaign.

“I think he’s very well respected in the community as chief, I think he’s done an outstanding job and I think it’s part of the confidence this community can have in electing Fischer as the next mayor that they’ll also get Chief White as a part of that team,” he says.

Republican candidate Hal Heiner says it’s irresponsible to make personnel decisions during the campaign, and if elected, he will review White’s performance before making any choices.

Democratic mayoral candidate Jim King discussed his Fraternal Order of Police endorsement at last week’s Louisville Forum. Today, even though it was expected, the FOP made their Republican Primary endorsement, giving the nod to Hal Heiner.

The FOP and the Abramson administration have clashed over a few issues, including officers’ take-home city cars. (Heiner drafted a resolution in the council asking the administration to stop the legal battle over the cars) These endorsements (obviously) boost the candidates’ public safety credentials, and they also give Heiner and King–both Metro Council members–an extra degree of separation from the current administration’s sometimes contentious relationship with the police union.

From the Heiner campaign:

…the state’s largest Fraternal Order of Police, River City Lodge 614, voted to endorse Councilman Hal Heiner in the Louisville Republican Primary for Mayor.  The River City FOP represents over 2,000 sworn and retired officers.  “I am humbled and honored to receive what I view as the most important endorsement in this mayoral race,” stated Councilman Heiner.  “These officers operate on the front lines and put their lives in danger to keep us all safe, for that I am grateful.  I look forward to working alongside Metro Police to pursue even higher goals for safety in our community within a close relationship of respect between the Mayor’s office and our officers.”

FOP President Sgt. Dave Mutchler issued the following statement in support of Heiner. “Councilman Heiner is a veteran public servant with the experience and qualifications necessary to effectively lead and manage our city. He is dedicated to addressing the issues facing our community and those issues important to the members of the River City FOP, who are charged with protecting our great citizens.”

We’ve reported on meth in Louisville, and statewide, meth production is soaring.

From the Kentucky State Police:

KSP reports that there were 716 meth labs in the Commonwealth last year which is an all time high for the state, increasing sixty percent over the 2008 totals.

The last record was set in 2004, when 600 labs were discovered. The production of meth in Kentucky dropped after a 2005 law went into effect requiring that purchases of pseudoephedrine (PSE) tablets be made at pharmacy counters. This ‘pharmacy log’ statute (KRS 218A.1446) had an immediate effect by substantially reducing meth labs in the state by fifty percent over a three-year period.

Major Joseph Williams, Commander for the KSP Special Enforcement Troop, contributes meth’s popularity to the relatively easy cooking process, the highly addictive nature of the drug and the ease of obtaining pseudoephedrine.

It appears that arrests are still not curbing production, and I wonder if the extra lab busts mean better enforcement or more labs and more amateurs making the drug.

I clicked over to the unofficial (as in, not affiliated with the city) LMPD website this morning to check out the new scanner live stream and found something way better.

But first, the scanners. By clicking here, you can monitor police radio activity in the urban and suburban districts. This is the flash-based alternative to buying an actual police scanner and listening for crimes. The streams are pretty helpful tools for anyone who wants to keep an eye out for police activity (citizen journalists, concerned neighbors, etc)

The faux-LMPD site also has an arcade section. You can play casino games, sports games or adventure games. I think that a few rounds of “Too Many Penguins” are a welcome addition to anyone’s day. If the games aren’t your bag, maybe you’d rather watch the Lady Gaga videos linked (via a web gadget) to the page.

But it’s not all fun and games (literally). The site has a news and commentary feature that makes it clear this is not a city webpage. Here’s an excerpt from a piece about Mayor Abramson.

“…it can be reasonably assumed that a man who has made a career of micro managing his puppets departmental heads might not sound credible when he claims ignorance as a defense.”

So to review, is not affiliated with the city (here’s the official site). It does feature games. It is a source for opinion pieces that highlight various frustrations with the Abramson administration and the official LMPD.

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