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Governor signs bills to expand benefits for state police

By Crystal Staley/Morgan Hall

Frankfort, KY - On April 12, 2022, Gov. Andy Beshear signed into law two pieces of legislation recently passed by the General Assembly to make historic investments in law enforcement, positioning the commonwealth as a leader in public safety.

In November last year, the Governor announced his two-year budget proposal would provide millions of dollars to fund competitive salaries for Kentucky State Police (KSP) troopers and officers. These funds would allow the agency to recruit, train and retain the essential workforce needed to continue to provide the highest level of security to all Kentuckians.

"My administration's top priority is to protect our Kentucky families and communities, which is why we must boldly invest in our law enforcement," Gov. Beshear said. "Thank you to every KSP trooper and officer who quickly responds to the emergencies and needs of the diverse communities that make up our commonwealth. Today, we show our appreciation by signing these bills into law."

"KSP is a fundamental component of our public safety infrastructure, serving every county in our commonwealth. Our troopers serve with bravery and distinction," Justice and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Kerry Harvey said. "We must maintain our ability to recruit and retain men and women who meet the high standards engrained in this premier law enforcement agency. The actions embodied in the legislation signed today benefit all Kentuckians by providing the tools necessary to maintain a truly excellent law enforcement agency, which makes our communities safer."

Competitive Salaries for KSP Sworn Personnel
KSP is experiencing an unprecedented shortage of troopers, with its lowest numbers in more than 30 years. The agency is staffed with 856 full-time sworn troopers and officers, which is 150 short of the agency's sworn strength in 2006. Currently, 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 overall.

"We cannot provide law and order if we do not have good, qualified law enforcement officers employed and on the streets," Gov. Beshear said. "This historic salary increase for troopers and commercial vehicle officers will put KSP among the top five law enforcement agencies in the commonwealth."

House Bill 259 ensures that all troopers will receive a $15,000 raise. Additionally, KSP's starting pay for sworn officers will increase from $40,000 to $55,000 annually. This bill also includes a unique contribution enhancement for members of the State Police Retirement System Tier III plan, which will have an immediate impact on veteran troopers, the 71 recent graduates of the KSP Training Academy and new recruits who are preparing to report for training in June. Lastly, it establishes enhanced promotion pay for trooper and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) officer supervisor ranks.

This is the second time the Governor has sought to fund troopers' salary increases in the commonwealth's budget, although this is the first time lawmakers included increases in their appropriations.

"As a graduate of the KSP Training Academy Cadet Class 68, it was an honor for me to carry this bill. Hopefully this will help with recruitment and retention of troopers for one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the country," Rep. Scott Lewis said.

"Thank you to Gov. Beshear and the General Assembly for their support of KSP," KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. said. "Strong public safety is the foundation for a state to grow and prosper, and with the current pace of Kentucky's booming economy, it is imperative that our agency is able to maintain and expand our full-time sworn strength. We are competing against several entities for a qualified workforce and, because of this bill, we now may be able to come out on top."

Historic Investment in Recording System for State Police
The Governor also announced that $12.2 million has been included in the state budget, as he recommended in January, for KSP to purchase an integrated video recording system, which is the first time in the commonwealth's history that funding has been allocated for this much-needed expense.

Gov. Beshear said: "I believe that recording devices provide protection to law enforcement officers and the public by documenting exactly what happens during a situation and allow us to learn as we move forward to be the very best at protecting one another."

As the Governor and Commissioner Burnett noted last 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 this funding, KSP will be able to equip 650 uniformed troopers and officers, as well as members of other specialized sections.

Enhanced Benefits for Retired KSP Sworn Classifications
The mission of KSP is to promote public safety through service, integrity and professionalism using partnerships to prevent, reduce and deter crime and the fear of crime, enhance highway safety through education and enforcement, safeguard property and protect individual rights.

In order to continue meeting that mission, KSP currently has employed 62 retired troopers, known as trooper Rs, and 10 retired CVE officers. These officers have voluntarily returned to the agency to assist with staff shortages and continue to serve and protect the commonwealth.

"We currently could not serve the commonwealth, assist local law enforcement or adequately respond to emergencies without our retired troopers and CVE officers returning to the workforce," Commissioner Burnett said. "These employees are valuable as they bring years of experience, knowledge of the law and exceptional training qualifications."

As of today, KSP has 38 vacancies for retired KSP troopers and five vacancies for retired CVE officers.

By signing Senate Bill 209, Gov. Beshear is establishing paid vacation, sick leave and holiday pay, as well as enhanced health insurance contribution payments for retired KSP troopers and CVE officers.

"These retired troopers have already served the commonwealth and put their lives at risk, but they have chosen to return and help bridge the staffing shortages KSP is experiencing," Gov. Beshear said. "Providing them with the benefits they earn while in service to all of us is the least we can do. Being able to take paid time off allows these individuals to be at their best when we need them the most."

"Many of our law enforcement agencies have a shortage of police officers. Kentucky State Police is hiring retired troopers to fill this need," Sen. Michael Nemes said. "Retired police officers can go to many agencies and receive benefits such as vacation, sick and bereavement pay. KSP does not provide these benefits for trooper Rs. This makes it harder to recruit retired Troopers. Senate Bill 209 alleviates this by providing these benefits."

KSP Recruitment Efforts Continue
During the bill signing, Gov. Beshear also talked about KSP's continued recruitment efforts. He said $500,000 from the previous budget helped the agency attract minority troopers and develop a marketing initiative to reach individuals from Kentucky's 120 counties.

These innovative digital ads were launched in unique venues, such as colleges and universities, outdoor billboards in rural communities, social media and streaming television platforms. KSP also is partnering with Dr. Aaron Thompson of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and Vikki Stone of the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet, as well as working closely with retired minority KSP Troopers, to further improve their diversity recruitment efforts.

On March 25, the Governor and KSP announced that 71 cadets had graduated the agency's basic training academy and are reporting for duty across the commonwealth with a focus on creating a better and safer Kentucky.

Cadet Class 101 is the largest KSP basic training academy graduating class since 2014. KSP's recruitment branch recently finished accepting applications for the upcoming Cadet Class 102, which is expected to be even larger and is slated to begin June 2022. These accomplishments are a sign that Gov. Beshear's historic investments in KSP have already have contributed to higher recruitment for the agency.

This story was posted on 2022-04-13 07:05:50
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