The Kentucky legislature last year increased starting pay for state troopers. (Kentucky State Police photo)
FRANKFORT — Kentucky State Police Commissioner Phillip J. Burnett Jr. told lawmakers recent pay increases backed by the General Assembly and Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration have supported the agency’s recruitment efforts.
Burnett said in a Wednesday meeting of the Budget Review Subcommittee on Justice and Judiciary that he does foresee other challenges when it comes to future retirements and increased pay at other law enforcement agencies competing for recruits.
“With this support that we’ve received from the General Assembly, this has truly been transformational for our agency. It’s been transformational for our troopers and our officers,” Burnett told the committee. He added that those employees do not have to get a second job to support their families.
The subcommittee took no votes Wednesday, but the informational meeting was part of several held this week in Frankfort as the interim session begins for the General Assembly. Reports heard now could shape policy in the 2024 session.
In 2022, the legislature passed House Bill 259, which amended KSP salaries, and Beshear signed the measure into law. After it went into effect on July 1, 2022, the law increased starting state trooper pay from $40,000 annually to $55,000.
The legislation has “dramatically helped our agency,” Burnett said, in the areas of recruitment and retention as well as encouraged those eligible for retirement to stay longer in their roles.
When Burnett began in his role in 2021, the agency was ranked 74th in pay among police agencies in Kentucky.. After the raises went into effect, it was in the state’s top five, he said. Before the increase, KSP’s monthly average of applications was 31. After the increase, it is 67 per month.
The open application period for the current 2023 class, which graduates in August, was 10 months and had 415 applications. Burnett said that part of the class was recruited before the pay increase went into effect.
KSP is recruiting for next year’s class and the applications have been open for a month, he said. The agency has already received 329 applications. KSP has been advertising the starting pay, which is $65,000 a year. Other new advertising methods, such as microtargeting, have also helped.
As for the future, Burnett said a possible bulge of future retirements is a concern because improved retention efforts mean more veterans are choosing chose to stay with the agency. In 2018, KSP had 82 retirements. In 2022, it had four. For the next fiscal year, KSP will have 144 employees eligible to retire.
Another obstacle is that other Kentucky law enforcement agencies have increased their pay as well, Burnett told the committee.
After the current class graduates, KSP is projected to have around 950 troopers, Burnett said. A program that allowed retired troopers to work on a contract basis has made a positive impact, he said..
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