Kentucky State Police

Two days after the protests began Kentucky State Police were called in and squared off against protesters on 5th Street.

Gov. Andy Beshear's proposed budget request for the Kentucky State Police next year will include $12.2 million for the agency's troopers to be equipped with body cameras for the first time.

The governor's budget request also proposes a $15,000 raise for state troopers and an $8,000 raise for dispatch telecommunicators, part of an effort to recruit new hires and retain current personnel, who are increasingly leaving for other law enforcement agencies that pay more.

At a press conference Tuesday with KSP and Justice Cabinet leadership, Beshear said the "historic investments" of his budget proposal would amount to the single largest pay increase ever for state troopers.

"Both KSP troopers and dispatchers deserve the respect and the stability that comes from competitive wages, and none of them should have to have a second job with what they do for us to provide for their family," Beshear said. "I hope that this is a commitment that is seen and understood by the state to do our part for these individuals that are doing theirs."

On the proposal to equip state troopers for the first time with body cameras to record interactions with the public, Beshear said they are "critical for public transparency and accountability," but also "provide just as much protection to law enforcement officers themselves by documenting exactly what happens in any situation."

"Body cameras address that 'he said, he said' situation, where they are not drug into court by someone who would claim something that didn't happen happened — protecting that officer and ensuring the right outcome."

The Louisville Metro Police Department became the first law enforcement agency in Kentucky to require officers to wear body cameras in 2015, but former KSP leadership resisted efforts to do so for years, saying the agency could not afford the expense.

An investigation by The Marshall Project and Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting this summer found KSP troopers fatally shot at least 41 people over the past five years — more than any other law enforcement agency in the state and more people in rural communities than any other department in the nation.

Justice Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey said Tuesday the body cameras would be a win for both the public and KSP troopers, as "effective policing requires public trust in law enforcement."

"I'm convinced that in the event of controversy, the record made by this tool will demonstrate that our troopers act professionally and appropriately in an overwhelming majority of difficult encounters," Harvey said. "In the relatively few cases — and I mean the very few cases — where the encounter is not as we would hope, these recording devices will be a valuable tool to ensure that justice is done and appropriate corrections are made."

KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. said the raises for personnel are what is needed to reverse the high turnover rate in the agency, as they employed more than 1,000 troopers in 2016 but just 736 today. That current figure is the lowest since 1988, with 70% of recent troopers leaving saying they did so because of the low salary.

In addition to paying state troopers less than every surrounding state, Burnett said KSP "ranks 74th in starting pay within Kentucky law enforcement agencies and is currently trailing by $10,000 to $30,000 a year depending upon the agency, rank and tenure."

The annual starting pay for KSP troopers is currently $40,000, while dispatchers start at $32,000.

Beshear also proposed a $600 increase in what officers are paid upon completing their mandated in-service training, and intends to include law enforcement officers in his proposal to use $400 million in federal funds next year to give bonuses to essential workers employed throughout two full years of the pandemic.

Ryan Straw, the government affairs director for the Kentucky Fraternal Order of Police, said the organization's 11,000 members were grateful for the governor including the extra pay in his budget request.

Whether or not the funding for KSP raises or body cameras comes to fruition will be up the the Republican supermajority of the Kentucky General Assembly — who Beshear noted had rejected his past budget proposal to give raises to KSP troopers.

Legislators begin the 2022 legislative session the first week of January, tasked with passing a two-year state budget by the time they adjourn in mid-April.

Reach reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka.

React to this story:

1
0
0
0
0

Trending Video