Gov. Andy Beshear is asking lawmakers to provide $15,000 annual raises for state troopers and funding for body cameras during the upcoming legislative session.
Beshear says the pay bump will help attract and retain troopers to the force, which has lost about a quarter of its officers over the last 15 years.
“This is our investment, because these are our folks. And it’s time to take care of those who helped take care of us,” Beshear said during a news conference announcing the proposal.
The proposal would increase starting pay for state troopers from $40,000 per year to $55,000 and also fund an $8,000 raise for dispatchers, who currently start at $24,000 per year.
According to the governor, Kentucky State Police is currently staffed with 736 full-time troopers, which is 273 short of the force’s strength in 2006.
KSP Commissioner Phillip Burnett said the raises would make the state more competitive with surrounding states, which all pay state police more than Kentucky does.
“We must retain these highly trained and experienced personnel until we are able to increase our current manpower,” Burnett said.
Burnett said more than 70% of people who have resigned from the agency in the last five years did so because of low salaries, according to exit interviews.
Beshear is also asking the legislature to set aside $12.2 million for state trooper body cameras, which they currently don’t use.
Beshear said body cameras would provide accountability for citizens and ensure the right outcome after encounters with the police.
“I believe the recording devices provide just as much protection to law enforcement officers themselves by documenting exactly what happens in any situation,” Beshear said.
State police investigate their officers’ shootings with no outside oversight and some experts have said lack of video evidence allows troopers to avoid scrutiny.
Beshear will make a full budget proposal in January at the beginning of the next annual legislative session.
Republicans have huge majorities in both chambers of the legislature and will ultimately be in charge of deciding what makes it into the budget.
Beshear proposed raises for troopers and other state workers in his last budget request, but the initiative didn’t make it into the final spending plan. But this year legislators will have a $1.1 billion budget to work with, after the state netted more tax revenue than initially predicted.