The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) began operations on January 6, 2003, as part of the creation of the consolidated city-county government in Louisville, Kentucky. It was formed by the merger of the Jefferson County Police Department and the Louisville Division of Police. The Louisville Metro Police Department is headed by Chief Robert C. White. LMPD divides Jefferson County into eight patrol divisions and operates a number of special investigative and support units.

Organizational structure

The Chief of Police is appointed by the Mayor of Louisville Metro and holds the rank of Colonel. Robert C. White is the only Chief in the history of LMPD. Currently, there are six individuals on Chief White's command staff: three Lieutenant Colonels (Administrative Bureau Chief, Patrol Bureau Chief, Support Bureau Chief), two Majors (Chief of Staff and Special Investigations Division Commander) and a civilian attorney serving as the Legal Advisor.

The Administrative Bureau Chief is responsible for the business affairs of the police department. Under him are information services, records management, crime analysis, human resources, etc. The Patrol Bureau Chief oversees the eight patrol divisions. The Support Bureau Chief directs special units for crime solving and other operations, such as the Crimes Against Children Section, Special Victims Unit, Robbery Unit, Crimes Against Property Unit, and others. The Chief of Staff coordinates community and public relations and the Police Chaplains. The Special Investigations Division Commander is over special (mostly internal) investigations units – the Public Integrity Unit, the Professional Standards Unit, the Intelligence Unit and the Narcotics/Vice Section. Additionally, the commander of the Training Division, a Captain, reports directly to the Support Bureau Chief.

The rank structure of LMPD is as follows: Colonel (Chief of Police), Lt. Colonel, Major, Captain, Lieutenant, Sergeant, Officer. The ranks of Colonel through Major are temporary political appointments. The highest civil service rank (Captain) is being phased out and is no longer being used to promote officers within the department. Some portions of the Administrative Bureau are headed by civilians, such as information services and human resources.


While the Louisville Metro Police Department began in 2003, its origins lie in two police departments dating back to the 1800s, the Jefferson County Police Department (JCPD) and the Louisville Division of Police (LPD).

Louisville Police Department

The Louisville Police Department, also known as the Louisville Division of Police, came into existence in 1806 with the appointment of five "watchmen" by the town's trustees. In 1821, a captain of the watch was appointed, directly responsible for crime prevention and the apprehension of criminals. The first Sergeant was hired in that year, whose primary duty was to see that the trustees' wishes were carried out.

In 1830, after the city government switched to a mayor-council arrangement, the position of captain was replaced by an elected "Marshall." In 1851, the mayor was put directly over the police. In 1856, a mayor-appointed office of Chief of Police was created, a position that earned $2,000 a year. The next year, the police force was reorganized in the image of modern police departments in the East, with the watchmen being called "policemen."

Following the Civil War, the Kentucky General Assembly passed an act to reorganize the department. The police department was given county-wide jurisdiction. Unfortunately, there was much corruption, as the police department was appointed by the city council. Thus the makeup of the police department depended heavily on the political affiliations of the council members.

Divisions and districting came into use shortly thereafter, with two divisions and several districts (the number depended on the time of day) being established.

In 1891, the department first purchased bicycles to serve with mounted police. The practice of using bicycles would wane throughout the 20th century, but would see a revival in 1993 as they served as an effective alternative to motor vehicles. Three Cadillacs were purchased in November 1908 to address the problem of lawbreakers making getaways in the "horseless carriages." In 1932, the Louisville Police Department began using radios for dispatching units, only the fifth department in the nation to dispatch cars in this manner. Motorcycles were introduced shortly after the cars, but were discontinued in 1984 due to high maintenance costs.

Politics were part of the police department until 1929, when the state's Civil Service act prohibited discrimination on the basis of politics or religion. A Civil Service Board was established, consisting of three members of each political party with the mayor serving as a tiebreaker.

On May 20, 1921, Alice Dunlop became the first female officer in the Louisville Police Department, with Bertha Whedbee becoming the first African American to be a police officer in Louisville. While technically equal with their male counterparts, females were only employed in limited capacities. In 1938, the four policewomen of the Louisville Police Department were dismissed because it was thought that there were no duties which required a woman. A policewoman would next be appointed in 1943, with nine more being appointed in as many years. In 1969, Urania "Kitty" Laun became the department's first sergeant and later appointed lieutenant and the first female district commander.

Decentralization of the department began in 1974. Traffic and detective bureaus remained in the Headquarters Building at Seventh and Jefferson, while other units were placed at various districts.

In 1982, the Louisville Board of Aldermen passed an ordinance allowing the mayor to remove the chief of police for specific reasons. The law was later amended to provide the mayor with the ability to both appoint and remove the chief, following the demotion of Chief Richard Dotson by Mayor Jerry Abramson in 1990.

On March 2, 2002 Louisville Mayor David L. Armstrong fired Police Chief Gene Sherrard due to a banquet honoring officers for exceptional valor. Two officers being honored for facing immediate danger were controversial as to what constituted immediate danger to these officers. The suspect in the case of these two officers, Desmond Rudolph, had left the house the officers went to through the back door and went to a stolen vehicle. Rudolph, who was unarmed, attempted to drive off, but there are conflicting statements as to if the car was operable or not. The view of the policemen involved was that that the car was operable and, believing they may be struck by the vehicle, constituted a danger to their lives, while the opposing view is that that the policemen did not follow proper police procedure by failing to secure the rear exit and that the car was inoperable and did not pose any danger to the officers. Rudolph was shot by the two officers 22 times and Rudolph died from his wounds. After the firing of the Chief of Police, many Louisville policemen marched in front of Louisville City Hall to protest the firing of Sherrard and demanded the resignation of Mayor Armstrong.[1][2]

Jefferson County Police Department

The Jefferson County Police Department was established in February 1868. In 1902, police officers providing their own horses were compensated an extra $10 each month. Two years later, this practice ceased with a wage increase from $40 to $60 monthly for officers. The first chief of police to be granted use of a county car was Harry Kendall in 1918. Following a letter from Chief Ambrose Hagerman noting that there were no river deaths in 1932 due to the introduction of rowboats, the county approved the purchase of a motor boat.

Jefferson County's Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team was formed in 1971. In 1981, JCPD received authorization from the Kentucky Law Enforcement Council to conduct annual in-service training. In 1999, it became certified to conduct its own police academy. At the time of merger, JCPD was divided into four patrol districts: Adam, Baker, Charlie and David.


During the 1990s, certain specialized elements of the county and city police departments began joint operations. Most notable were the photo and fingerprint labs, the narcotics bureaus and the crimes against children departments. The purpose of this merger was to provide more efficient and cost-effective service.

JCPD and LPD ceased to exist as separate entities on January 6, 2003, when the Louisville Metro Police Department became effective as part of the city-county merger.


1968 riots

While the Louisville riots of 1968 had many causes (most directly, the spread of false rumors and bottles being thrown into the crowd) the crowd where the riot began had gathered to protest the possible reinstatement of a white officer who had been suspended for beating a black man some weeks earlier. As the crowd became unruly, police attempts to disperse it were ineffective, but this was a common problem police departments of the day had.

Newby shooting

One of the first and most widely covered controversies faced by the post-merger department was the shooting of Michael Newby on January 3 2004 in the predominantly black Shawnee neighborhood. Newby, a 19-year-old black male in possession of drugs and a weapon, was shot by McKenzie Mattingly, a white police officer, in what authorities described as an undercover drug deal gone bad. After they struggled and Newby went for Mattingly's gun, Mattingly fired four times, hitting Newby three times in the back, killing him.[3] An internal police investigation found that Mattingly did not face an "immediate threat", although Newby did have a .45-caliber gun in his waistband.[4]

Mattingly was fired from the department and charged criminally, but acquitted of all charges in September 2004. The nature of the incident and trial sparked a number of protests and demonstrations by members of the community.[5] The city eventually paid $250,000 to Newby’s mother to settle a lawsuit.[6]

Fraternal Order of Police criticism of Mayor Jerry Abramson

On November 6 2006, the President of the LMPD officers' Fraternal Order of Police Lodge criticized the Mayor of Louisville in a 30-second video for his not providing adequate resources to LMPD. In the video, he also endorsed Mayor Abramson's Republican opponent in the 2006 Mayoral election. The video implied that the Mayor was causing officers to use an outdated and ineffective radio communications system and that he had not hired enough police officers to ensure public safety.[7]

Gang-related violence in Louisville

A Louisville-based CBS affiliate station reported in November 2006 that an anonymous employee of the Louisville Metro Police Department revealed to them that the department knew of at least 69 different gang "sets" with an estimated 2,000 members in Louisville. The confidential data was part of a database kept by the Gang Intelligence Unit in 2003, prior to it being disbanded. Two months prior to the revelation of this information, a spokesman for the LMPD denied that Louisville had a significant problem with "traditional gangs." The television station interviewed a local gang member who claimed that several parts of the city are considered to be gang-controlled territories. The story was aired after several widely reported incidents of alleged gang-related assaults had occurred in the city.[8]

Patrol and interdepartmental issues

Before the merger of the city and county police departments, there were six "city" districts (patrolled by LPD) and four "county" districts (patrolled by JCPD). The city districts were identified numerically, while the county districts were labeled using a phonetic alphabet: Adam, Baker, Charlie, David. On October 10, 2004, Jefferson County was divided into eight patrol divisions, each headed by an officer holding the rank of Major. The first, second, fourth and fifth divisions roughly comprise the former jurisdiction of the city police department, while the third, sixth, seventh and eighth divisions make up the area formerly patrolled by the county police department. It is common for longtime police officers to refer to a division by the name that area held before merger (e.g., the old fourth district), just as they will sometimes refer to a police officer as being "county" or "city" if they served before merger.

Even after the city-county merger became effective in 2003, Louisville Metro Police did not become the sole law enforcement agency in the county. Other than the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office (JCSO), the incorporated cities remaining intact after merger maintain their own police with jurisdiction within those cities. Most notable of these are the Jeffersontown, Shively and St. Matthews Police Departments. LMPD patrol units do not typically respond to calls for service inside these departments' jurisdictions, and vice versa. Certain LMPD divisions and specialized units provide assistance to these police agencies when necessary.


Louisville Metro Police communicates using radios on both VHF and UHF frequencies, a carryover from the communications systems of LPD and JCPD. A recent city-wide initiative in coordinated operations is MetroSafe, which has combined the radio dispatch capabilities of police, fire and EMS into one joint emergency management unit (Joint EMU). Additionally, MetroSafe has incorporated a Motorola MotoBridge into the system, facilitating communications between different agencies (such as Shively and Jeffersontown Police Departments) with different communications capabilities.

The radio alphabet in use in LMPD is the same one used by the American Radio Relay League, circa 1948, consisting mostly of first names (note: the ARRL currently endorses use of the NATO phonetic alphabet. The alphabet is as follows: Adam, Baker, Charlie, David, Edward, Frank, George, Henry, Ida, John, king, Lincoln, Mary, Nora, Ocean, Paul, queen, Robert, Sam, Tom, union, Victor, William, x-ray, young, zebra. Until recently, "10-codes" were in common use for radio communications (e.g., "10-23" to indicate arrival on location or "10-86" to indicate situation under control). However, with the National Incident Management System going into effect, encouraging the use of "clear text" to avoid possible miscommunication between agencies using a common radio frequency or working jointly on an incident, the use of 10-codes is being phased out. LMPD has officially ceased using 10-codes as of October 2007, following a SOP update, however the use of 10-codes by both officers and dispatchers remains common practice.[9]

Contact Information

Louisville Metro Police Headquarters
633 W. Jefferson Street
KY 40202
Phone: (502) 574-7660

See also


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  3. Smith, Scheri. "Officer kills suspect in failed drug bust", Courier-Journal, 2004-01-05, p. 1A. 
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  4. Smith, Peter. "The Newby shooting; Vigils mark anniversary", Courier-Journal, 2005-01-05, p. 1B. 
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  5. Smith, Scheri. "Protesters decry ex-detective's acquittal", Courier-Journal, 2004-10-04, p. 1B. 
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  6. Wolfson, Andrew. "City pays shooting victim's family $250,000", Courier-Journal, 2008-02-15. 
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  7. "The Truth", 2006-10-06. 
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  8. "Gangs a Growing Issue in Louisville", 2006-11-27. 
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  9. Louisville Metro Police Dept. Standard Operating Procedures 3.8.5


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