For two years Conrad served as an assistant chief in Metro Government before leaving in 2005 to takeover the police department in Glendale, Arizona. The Louisville native replaces former Chief Robert White, who resigned to take the chief post in Denver, Colorado.
Sixteen candidates applied for the position in a search conducted by the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville. Initially, members of the Metro Council held public forums to receive community input before the field was narrowed to 11 candidates, who were interviewed by a panel and cut down to five finalists.
Conrad says he is excited about becoming only the second person to head the department since city and county government combined, and wants to build on partnerships that White created to make Louisville safer.
“I want every neighborhood in our community to be the kind of place where you can let your kids go out and play and not have to worry about their safety. I want every neighborhood to be the kind of place where you can go to work and not worry about your home getting broken into while you’re away. I want every neighborhood to be the kind of place where seniors can walk and not worry about harassment or being victimized,” he says.
The mayor wanted to appoint a new chief by April 1, but was impressed with Conrad after visiting him in Arizona over the weekend.
Fischer says a number of qualified candidates applied for the job, but Conrad stood out as a steady and compassionate leader with knowledge of the city.
“Steve has a deep knowledge of Louisville and it’s neighborhoods and it’s people and it’s history. He knows Derby and he knows how to pronounce Dumesnil,” he says. “In short, he’s one of us! But he also has that outsider’s perspective having spent the last seven years as chief in Glendale, Arizona. Steve has a passion for law enforcement, for Louisville and for LMPD.”
Conrad began his career in law enforcement in 1980 as a patrol officer in the Portland, Russell, Shawnee and California neighborhoods. He rose through the ranks and eventually became assistant under Chief White, who Conrad called a friend and mentor.
During that period, he helped develop the first budget for the newly merged department, and he oversaw the day-to-day administration.
In Glendale, the police department has about 600 employees and a $70 million annual budget, which makes it comparatively smaller than Louisville. Several local leaders, including city lawmakers, police union bosses and community activists want to get the new chief’s ear.
Louisville Metro Councilman David James, D-6, is chair of the Public Safety Committee and supports the mayor’s selection. But the former FOP president contends Conrad will have to address the lack of manpower in the department, adding he will recommend Conrad re-institute the gang unit that White decentralized.
“Due to the budget deficit we’ve pushed back some of our recruit classes where we were going to be hiring new officers. That’s going to be a big issue. And the other issue is violence in west Louisville,” says James. “We had about 194 shootings last year and that’s way too many. Dealing with the gangs is a top priority. When citizens come to me and say they have a problem with gangs and drugs being sold in their neighborhood that’s a gang problem. If someone were to say we don’t have that problem in Louisville, I just don’t agree.”
During the press conference, Conrad announced he has asked the current command staff to stay on board, but wouldn’t commit to any specific policy decisions or changes. However, Conrad said he won’t be wedded to the status quo either.
“I’ll state the obvious—I am not Chief White—I have my own style and I have my own approach,” he says. “But I am not a caretaker. We are about making things better and we can do that together. We want our city to be safer. We’re proud of the job that we do, but we cannot do that without members of this community helping us every step of the way.”
Conrad will spend the next few days visiting each patrol division and meeting with officers and various community groups. He begins March 19.