Former Lexington police chief Anthany Beatty picked up the endorsement of the city's police union Friday, a key endorsement in a race that has largely focused on public safety.
The move was expected.
Incumbent Mayor Jim Gray and the city's police union have sparred over several issues during his first term in office.
The Bluegrass Lodge FOP #4 and the other three employee bargaining units endorsed Gray in the 2010 race against then-Mayor Jim Newberry.
At a new conference Friday at the Bluegrass Lodge FOP #4, Beatty pledged to strengthen not only police but all of public safety — which includes the city's division of police, fire corrections and 911 services — if elected on Nov. 4.
"Jim Gray has not been getting things done in terms of public safety," Beatty said.
Det. Jason Rothermund, president of the Bluegrass Lodge #4, said Beatty was the clear choice because of his 30 years in public service, his ties to the community and because he was fair.
"He has the experience and the ideas that we believe will move Lexington forward," Rothermund said. Beatty was police chief from 2001 to 2008 before retiring to work at the University of Kentucky. He served more than 30 years in the Lexington police department.
Walker Mattox, campaign manager for Gray, said that the FOP endorsement was no surprise.
"Mayor Gray has had a good working relationship with the FOP and appreciates our officers dedication to the city," Mattox said. "We knew it would be likely that the union would endorse Mr Beatty because he's a former officer. Mayor Gray looks forward to working with the FOP to make Lexington even better."
Tensions between the police union and Gray's administration boiled earlier this summer over the personal use of police vehicles. As part of the collective bargaining agreement, the police and city agreed to limit the personal use of police vehicles from work to home and to those who have second jobs. But the limitations on cruisers did not yield the expected savings. The city agreed to make changes to the take-home cruiser policy this summer. But the FOP opted to suspend the vote on the changes to the collective bargaining contract because they felt that Gray's staff had tried to blame the city's police officers for the limitations on police cruisers.
Gray later used an executive order to restore the benefit, saying he may lift it once the uptick in violent crime subsides. Gray did not say how the city would calculate a drop in crime.
The city's police union fumed, saying a mayor could not make a change to a collective bargaining agreement via executive order.
Beatty has criticized Gray for allowing the city's police force to drop to around 530. When he left in 2008, the city had a little less than 600 officers. Beatty noted Friday that the city's emergency communications department is also struggling with too few staff and he would like to see how many corrections officers there are compared to the number of inmates at the Fayette County jail.
Gray, meanwhile, has said that the city has put more money — $630 million dollars, 55 percent of the city's budget — in public safety over the past three years than previous administrations, including hiring 165 police officers and 111 firefighters. The city has also used surplus funds to replace aging cruisers and buy new fire trucks.
As far as cuts to public safety are concerned, Mattox said Gray and the city council have "invested more in public safety since the beginning of 2011" than any three and a half year period in the city's history.
"Public safety is Mayor Gray's top priority," he said. "Those are the facts. To say otherwise isn't true and is clearly intended to mislead Lexington's citizens."
Still, Beatty said the recent push to add more correction, police and firefighters was Gray "playing catch up."
When asked how he would pay for additional public safety staff, Beatty said he thinks there was money in the budget for additional staff.
"There have been other priorities," Beatty said. "Public safety should come first."