Kentucky Governor Plans Investment to Improve Public Safety

FRANKFORT, KY (STL.News) Gov. Andy Beshear unveiled part of his upcoming budget plan, which he said makes historic investments in law enforcement so the commonwealth can be a leader in improving public safety.

The Governor’s two-year budget plan provides millions of dollars to fund competitive salaries for Kentucky State Police (KSP) troopers, officers and telecommunicators, supply recording devices for KSP sworn troopers and increase the peace officer training stipend.  The Governor also reiterated the need for lawmakers to use up to $400 million in federal aid to provide a monetary “hero bonus” to those who have worked on the front lines throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, which he said should include the state’s law enforcement community.

“My administration’s top priority is to protect our Kentucky families and communities,” said Gov. Beshear.  “And today I am announcing that my next recommended budget will make historic investments in law enforcement, so that the commonwealth can become a true leader in improving public safety.”

Competitive Salaries Needed for KSP Sworn Personnel
KSP ranks 74th in the state among law enforcement agencies for starting pay, and compared with state police agencies in seven neighboring states, KSP ranks last in pay.

“It is not right that, when compared to our seven neighboring states, KSP ranks last in cadet pay, newly commissioned trooper pay and tenured pay,” Gov. Beshear said.  “Kentuckians, as well as other local law enforcement agencies, rely on KSP to keep our commonwealth safe, and our troopers have more than earned pay that is comparable to their brothers and sisters in law enforcement across the state and nation.”

The Governor said his plan would change starting pay for sworn officers from about $40,000 a year to $55,000.  Current sworn troopers and officers would also receive the increase.

KSP is staffed with 736 full-time sworn troopers and officers, which is 273 short of where the agency’s sworn strength was in 2006.

“Gov. Beshear and members of his administration are well aware of the dedicated service of our troopers and telecommunicators,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr.  “His historic proposed budget for KSP, along with the current pace of Kentucky’s economy, will allow us to recruit, train and retain an essential workforce that provides the highest level of public safety to Kentuckians.”

“Being a trooper is part of my family tradition, as my father was a trooper and my brother was a trooper,” said KSP Detective Courtney Milam.  “When my dad retired in 2008, he worked alongside nearly 900 troopers, whereas today, I serve with roughly 730 troopers.  We are losing good troopers to other agencies that are able to pay higher salaries.”

The Governor also sought to fund troopers’ salary increases in his last budget proposal, which lawmakers did not adopt.

Competitive Salary Increase Needed for KSP Telecommunicators
KSP telecommunicators handle dispatch duties for Kentucky state troopers, commercial vehicle enforcement officers, conservation officers and other emergency service agencies as needed. Currently, KSP telecommunicators are in the bottom 10% of lowest paid in the state, and there are currently 42 vacant positions.

“Last year, telecommunicators answered over 2 million calls resulting in more than 500,000 requests for assistance. They were the calming voice on the other end of the line when those calls were made to 911,” Gov. Beshear said.  “Improving their salary is one step toward retaining these essential workers and better compensating them for their dedication.”

The work of a telecommunicator is one of the most challenging in law enforcement.  In the past five years, KSP has averaged a nearly 23% turnover rate.  The Governor’s proposal will increase KSP telecommunicators’ starting pay from $24,000 annually to $32,000.  Currently employed telecommunicators also would receive the increase.

“Our agency has telecommunicator vacancies at every post, and often when we advertise the job openings, we receive zero applicants,” said KSP Telecommunications Supervisor Joey Mattingly.  “With the Governor’s budget request, we will be able to competitively recruit while retaining the talent we already have.”

Historic Investment in Recording System for State Police
The Governor announced that $12.2 million is being included in his budget for KSP to purchase an integrated video recording system, which would be the first time in the commonwealth’s history that funding is allocated for this much-needed expense.

“Public safety requires transparency and accountability of our law enforcement, and one way that can be achieved is by being outfitted with recording devices,” said Gov. Beshear.  “I believe that recording devices provide protection to law enforcement officers by documenting exactly what happens during a situation.”

As the Governor and Commissioner Burnett have indicated over the past year, KSP has conducted equipment testing for a variety of recording systems. KSP sworn officers will have a body camera and in-car camera, which will work together to capture-synchronized video of an incident from multiple vantage points. With the proposed funding, KSP will be able to equip 650 uniformed troopers and officers, as well as members of other specialized sections.

Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey joined the Governor, Commissioner Burnett and local law enforcement leaders at KSP’s Training Academy for the historic budget announcement.

“From my time as a United States Attorney, I understand the benefits that recording devices have for the public and for law enforcement.  These devices demonstrate to the public that investigations and reviews are done in an honest and transparent way – thereby strengthening trust in law enforcement and public safety for everyone,” said Secretary Harvey.

Support for Training Stipend for Law Enforcement Officers
The Governor is including an increase of $600 in his budget to be issued to all law enforcement officers upon completion of their state mandated 40 hours of in-service training; therefore, providing officers $4,600 annually through the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund (KLEFPF).

Clark County Sheriff Berl Perdue, president of the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police, said: “Given the climate around law enforcement across our nation, the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police is pleased to see our state take the initiative to fund and support our law enforcement officers.  This will provide better working conditions for our members and an improved quality of life.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tremendous strain on all Kentuckians, especially our first responders,” said Hardin County Sheriff John Ward, president of the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association.  “Sheriffs across Kentucky, along with the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association, appreciate the financial support that the Governor has designated for law enforcement. The Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association greatly appreciates Gov. Beshear’s continuous support of law enforcement throughout Kentucky.”

The Governor proposed the $600 increase to KLEFPF in his past two budget proposals, and lawmakers did not adopt the measures. To learn more about KLEFPF, click here.

Hero Pay
In October, the Governor announced a plan to use $400 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to fund bonuses for essential workers who worked through the pandemic.  While House and Senate Majority Leadership have declined to participate in a bipartisan working group to establish who would qualify for the bonus, the Governor is moving forward with the proposal.

“I believe strongly that our people who’ve worked almost two years through this pandemic, like our law enforcement officers, deserve appreciation, deserve encouragement and deserve this type of bonus,” the Governor said.

KSP Recruitment Efforts
Finally, Gov. Beshear talked about KSP recruitment efforts and how $500,000 from the last budget has helped the agency hire minority troopers in the recruitment branch and developed a marketing initiative to reach individuals from Kentucky’s 120 counties.  The innovative, digital ads were launched in unique venues, such as colleges and universities, outdoor billboards in rural communities, social media and streaming television platforms. Additionally, KSP is partnering with Dr. Aaron Thompson of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and Vikki Stone of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet, and working closely with retired minority KSP Troopers to further improve their diversity recruitment efforts.

KSP Recruitment Branch Commander Sgt. Michael Murriell thanked Gov. Beshear for his investment in the agency’s hiring efforts.

“Through this funding, we launched the ‘Be the Difference’ recruitment campaign, which resulted in the largest reporting academy class since 2015,” said Sgt. Murriell.  “However, our agency is not satisfied with the current level of diversity, and it remains a priority to recruit a dedicated, qualified workforce that best reflects the diverse communities of the commonwealth.”

KSP’s recruitment branch is continuing to build upon their success by actively recruiting for cadet class 102, slated to begin June 2022, which currently includes 128 applications of which 17 or 13.28% are minority applicants.

The Governor added that in the coming weeks, he would unveil other parts of his upcoming budget that will bolster personnel in other critical roles such as social workers, corrections officers and youth workers, as well as educators and state employees.