At least seven state troopers are facing criminal charges for crimes as common as a DUI, to some as significant as stealing federal money, all happening within the last year. We spoke to state police officials about what's going on and they say this is the first time in the agency's history that they've had so many troopers facing criminal charges at the same time.
The Adair County grand jury indicted Trooper B.J. Burton for reckless homicide stemming from an incident at the detention center in June leaving Billy Phillips dead, a day that changed the way Phillips' family looked at law enforcement.
"They're sworn to uphold the law, but I think he took this a little too far," said Larry Phillips, Phillips Brother.
Two more troopers from the London Post, Mark Ridener and James Phillip Moore, were indicted last week for allegedly assaulting a man last December who was allegedly assaulting another man at the time the troopers stepped in. They've both since resigned, but with a shortage at the Laurel County Sheriff's Department, Fred Yaden had rehired Ridener.
"He was already certified and could hit the ground running and he was hired with the knowledge that if this went any further, that we'd have to take whatever steps were necessary," Yaden said.
Ridener is now laid off.
Also from London Post, Trooper Michael Pennington pleaded guilty to an off-duty DUI last fall and just last week, Former Trooper Jason O'Bannon pleaded guilty to federal charges. O'Bannon will be sentenced in November and later this week, Former Detective Rodger Cooper for the drug enforcement special investigations unit will be sentenced after pleading guilty to stealing federal money.
Another detective is the only one so far to be sentenced. Louis Podunavac also pleaded guilty to stealing federal money. Kentucky State Police say it seems overwhelming, but is in fact only one percent of the agency.
Another trooper, Jared Alfrey recently resigned from the Pikeville Post after being accused of assault as well.
Below is a statement sent to WYMT from State Police Commissioner Jack Adams.
"In response to the inquiry regarding charges filed against current and former agency personnel, some of these charges indicate that there have been personnel issues within the agency. Organizations have issues that must be addressed. What separates great organizations from those of lesser caliber is how they address issues that arise. I am confident the Kentucky State Police has dealt with these individual issues in a forthright and up-front manner.
When unlawful and/or unethical behavior is discovered, we consistently take swift action to determine whether policy, procedure or the law has been violated. In those instances where the department finds possible criminal violations, they are brought to the attention of appropriate prosecuting authorities by the department itself. Concurrently, substantiated violations of the agency's Standards of Conduct are dealt with according to policy. Equally so, the department also has an obligation to ensure the members of the department are protected when properly performing their official duties. The history and proud tradition of the Kentucky State Police, and our almost 1800 employees, will not stand for or accept anything less.
Through our high standards, and thorough internal policies and procedures, I am confident the Kentucky State Police will continue to provide professional and experienced law enforcement services to the citizens of Kentucky."
August 22, 2007