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Beshear proposes salary boost, body cameras for state police

November 9, 2021 GMT
FILE - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on July 8, 2021. Frontline personnel at Kentucky State Police would receive pay raises, and troopers would be equipped with body cameras, under a budget proposal unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, by Gov. Beshear.
(Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP, File)
FILE - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on July 8, 2021. Frontline personnel at Kentucky State Police would receive pay raises, and troopers would be equipped with body cameras, under a budget proposal unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, by Gov. Beshear. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP, File)
FILE - Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear speaks during a media conference at the state Capitol in Frankfort, Ky., on July 8, 2021. Frontline personnel at Kentucky State Police would receive pay raises, and troopers would be equipped with body cameras, under a budget proposal unveiled Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, by Gov. Beshear. (Ryan C. Hermens/Lexington Herald-Leader via AP, File)

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) — Frontline personnel at Kentucky State Police would receive big pay raises, and troopers would be equipped with body cameras, under a budget proposal unveiled Tuesday by Gov. Andy Beshear.

The proposed salary increases are aimed at halting the steady loss of troopers and dispatchers leaving for higher pay at other law enforcement agencies. Troopers and telecommunicators frequently cited pay as the reason for their departures from KSP, underscoring the agency’s recruitment and retention struggles, state police officials said.

“This is a business model we must correct,” said KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr.

Beshear’s ambitious funding proposals for state police will be part of the budget plan that the Democratic governor presents to the Republican-dominated legislature early next year.

Under his proposal, starting pay for KSP’s sworn officers would rise from about $40,000 a year to $55,000, he said. Current troopers and officers also would receive the increase.

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Starting pay for state police telecommunicators would go from $24,000 to $32,000. Current telecommunicators — often the voice on the other end of 911 calls — also would get the increase.

“These pay increases, I believe, will make a real difference,” Beshear said. “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.”

The KSP funding proposals will compete with a myriad of other requests for money when lawmakers craft the state’s next budget. One advantage is that the state has stockpiled a massive surplus in its budget reserve trust fund, largely due to the influx of federal pandemic aid, while state revenue collections have continued to grow.

The number of KSP troopers has shrunk significantly in recent years, Burnett said. But if the pay raise takes effect, “we expect to grow our strength substantially over the next five years,” he said.

KSP ranks 74th among law enforcement agencies in the Bluegrass State for starting pay, and ranks last in pay when compared with state police agencies in neighboring states.

Meanwhile, Beshear said his budget proposal will include $12.2 million for KSP to purchase an integrated video recording system. The funding would enable state police to equip 650 troopers and officers with recording devices.

“This is the first time in this commonwealth’s history that this level of funding is being allocated for recording devices, a much-needed expense,” the governor said at a news conference.

“And never have we put in as much money as I am recommending — year-to-year, single-largest increase ever — for trooper and telecommunication worker pay,” he added. “This is our investment as these are our folks. And it’s time that we took care of those who help take care of us.”

KSP has tested equipment for various recording systems, and the plan is for its officers to have a body camera and in-car camera, which will provide video of incidents from multiple vantage points.

Beshear, a former state attorney general, said body cameras are crucial for transparency and accountability, but said they “provide just as much protection to law enforcement officers themselves by documenting exactly what happens in any situation.”

State Justice and Public Safety Secretary Kerry Harvey said the recording devices will benefit the public and the KSP troopers responding to perilous situations.

“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,” he added.