FRANKFORT, Ky. (WKYT) - One of the biggest challenges that the Kentucky State Police face isn't anything they come across on the road, it's the number of troopers they have on the schedule.
"We continue to battle manpower shortages of historic numbers," said Commissioner Rodney Brewer.
Case in point, he brings up last July, "We had a small cadet class, that graduated last July, of 42. On August first we lost 45 to retirement."
That constant cycle is why the Commissioner started a program in 2009 to keep retired troopers. He calls them his "Trooper-Rs," for "Trooper Retired." The candidates must be retired and in good standing, have at least 20 years of service, and they are hired year-to-year for up to five years.
"It has been a supplement to the strained schedules that are out there at some of our posts," and he added that it's a win/win for both the troopers and the agency.
However, on Friday it became a lose/lose when the State Police had to cut the program.
"We really were faced with no other choice," said Commissioner Brewer, who faces a $5.8-million deficit for this fiscal year. With the "Trooper R" program cut, it saves $1.25 million.
Commissioner Brewer said this program was always designated as a program that could be cut to save money, but he hoped he'd never have to do it. Still, it's a tough loss for the agency that goes beyond the dollar amount said Brewer.
"This doesn't solve all of that problem but when over 90% of your budget is involving people, fuel, and cars it doesn't leave you much wiggle room."
Help is on the way. In November, 62 cadets will graduate from the academy and while that helps with the numbers, Commissioner Brewer says it doesn't quite replace the lost experience.
"That will certainly be missed and tenure is not something that you get back quickly."
Many of the troopers were stationed at posts all over the state. With the cut one trooper will be lost from the post in Bowling Green, two in Elizabethtown, one in Pikeville, two in Harlan, four in London, three from Frankfort, five from Hazard, and two in Ashland.
Although with smarter tools and better patrolling, the Commissioner said it shouldn't keep police from being able to serve the state.
"I don't think the average citizen will see a decline in police services, at least very, very little maybe in response times."
That's not the only cut KSP has made. The agency has also cut 50% of their temporary staff, much of which helps file reports and work with licenses. Commissioner Brewer said they may be temporary staff, but they carry a big workload and it helped save the agency a lot in hours and costs.
Commissioner Brewer also hinted that more will need to be done to close the gap, saying that more restrictions on travel will be looked at. Still, the agency is at the mercy of rising and falling gas prices and other costs that are out of his control.
While it won't be easy losing these veterans, Commissioner Brewer is optimistic that one day the budget will allow for these programs to return. He's just hoping it's sooner than later.
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