Louisville Police Chief Testifies to Defend LMPD Payment to SWAT Officers | New

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields spoke out Monday to defend her department’s pay to her SWAT team.

Lawsuit filed in 2016 claims LMPD SWAT team members should have been paid for ‘on-call’ time dating back to 2002. Officers say they missed family duties, couldn’t get off-duty jobs and even more so because of the on-call rules. Officers would be on call for two weeks at a time during which they could not drink and had to be able to respond to a location within 45 minutes. Once the agents answered the call, they collected their salaries.

In just over an hour on the witness stand, Chief Shields claimed SWAT officers were always fairly compensated for their work – once they were called to the scene.

Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields testifies in a Jefferson County courtroom as her department’s SWAT team battles back pay. July 25, 2022 (Photo WDRB)

“I’m sorry, but when you wait for a phone to ring, it doesn’t work,” she testified. “I’ve never spoken to a chief where they pay officers to be on duty.”

SWAT is the elite LMPD team that handles situations involving hostages, barricaded suspects, and dangerous warrants. Each member is highly qualified. And in 2016, the team went full-time, meaning officers assigned to the SWAT team only work for that. Officers say they missed family functions, couldn’t get off-duty jobs and more because of custody rules.

Ann Oldfather, the plaintiffs’ attorney, asked Shields about the officers’ secondary employment. Shields confirmed that the department had restrictions in place, but stressed that it was part of the job.

“When you choose a profession like the police, you know what you’re getting into,” she said.

LMPD SWAT twice as active since becoming the full-time team last year

During opening arguments last week, defense attorneys for the city argued the same.

“The SWAT officers filing this lawsuit all knew when they signed up for the job, what was expected of them,” attorney Suzanne Michael said. “The question you’re going to have to answer at the end of the trial, when they’re on call, ‘Is their time so severely limited that it’s not their time at all?'”

Oldfather sued the city in the early 2000s on behalf of firefighters who claimed they were not being paid fair overtime pay. The city ended up paying more than $34 million in back wages in that case.

While being questioned by city attorneys, Chief Shields sent a very direct message to the jurors. She said, “We’re spending your money.”

“The city gets its revenue from four different sources, Deputy Mayor Ellen Hesen said.

Hesen was next on the witness stand and explained the impact the trial could have on the city.

“Having to cover some sort of expense like that would mean having to raise taxes and cut services,” she said.

“We work 24 hours a day, 48 hours a day,” Louisville Fire Chief Gregory Frederick said when asked about firefighters with similar on-call schedules.

Oldfather asked if Louisville Metro paid dedicated firefighters for round-the-clock coverage of the city’s fire departments, to which Frederick replied, “Yes.”

“We thought the jury got a lot of useful information,” Oldfather said after court, calling the message the jury received from Shields part of the city’s scare tactics.

“Let Chief Shields turn to the jury and say, ‘We’re worried about your wallets. So, I’ve been keen to say that if we’re worried about our wallets, it’s a very small amount…to do the right thing for people who benefit our community,” she said.

The trial continues Tuesday morning and is expected to be completed by the end of the week.

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