Louisville Metro Police Chief Robert White insists there are several qualified candidates within the department who could replace him, but Mayor Greg Fischer will make the ultimate decision.
Last Friday, the mayor’s office announced White was stepping down as the first chief in Metro Government history to become the chief of police in Denver. White will be leaving in early December, but the chief says he has had conversations with Fischer about a possible replacement and stressed to the media that officers within the department could fill the position.
White says Denver officials approached him about the post and that it was time to move on.
“While I think there is much that has been done there still is much to do. But nine years is an awful long time. The timing was right and it was an opportunity that I did not purse, but I was confronted with and decided to take advantage of it,” he says.
In 2003, White was hired by former Mayor Jerry Abramson and quickly moved to combine the city and county police departments as a result of merger. Several supporters cite that White’s tenure improved racial tensions between the African-American community and officers, and many have praised the chief for a willingness to discipline officers.
“The chief tried to run a clean department. Fired police all over the place for good reasons. That might have been a ‘mistake’,” Dr. Eddie Woods, an at-risk youth advocate, said via Twitter.
White also instituted several initiatives that decentralized the bulky gang division into decentralized flex units, which is still considered a questionable step by some.
Councilman David James , D-6, is a former Fraternal Order of Police president who currently serves as vice-chairman of the Public Safety Committee. He says some the changes White made put police at a disadvantage in dealing with gangs.
“The decentralization of the police department was not the wisest idea as far as public safety is concerned. Whether we get rid of the gang unit or not, we still have a gang problem. So, having a centralized unit that can deal with information from all over the city as far as gangs are related is very important,” he says, adding a new chief will have to improve morale due in large part to labor disputes under the previous administration.
“I don’t know necessarily the morale issue is totally Chief White’s fault. He did have a boss named Jerry Abramson, who told Chief White what to do,” says James. “There were several labor related issues that Mayor Abramson put on the officers that was actually illegal and has since been resolved by Mayor Fischer, who recognizes that treated his officers well is probably a good idea.”
White hopes his successor will maintain some of the crime fighting initiatives he instituted over the past decade, but he expects a new chief will want to put their signature on the department.
Asked about his critics, the chief says the force is more transparent and his administration made it more respected in the community.
“There’s a saying about police chiefs: The last chief you had and the next one you’re going to get is the best chief there is, and obviously I have my critics. But I also think I have a lot of support from the community at-large,” he says.
A Fischer spokesman says the mayor will not appoint a search committee, but the administration will consult various groups on choosing a new chief and Fischer will name an interim chief in the next two weeks.