LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — Police departments in Kentucky say a record number of their officers are retiring.
The Fraternal Order of Police blames it on the national climate, which the Lexington FOP president describes as “attacking and demonizing the police”.
Nationwide, police departments say they’re losing people fast. Faster now than in recent memory.
In Kentucky, the FOP says it’s most noticeable in the state’s two biggest cities.
“Louisville’s numbers are exponentially higher. I know they’ve had right at 20 in the last month retire or leave,” says Clark County Sheriff and FOP President Berl Purdue.
Six Lexington officers retired in June, according to Lexington Bluegrass Lodge 4 FOP President Lt. Jonathan Bastian. He says four more are leaving at the end of summer.
“I’ve had a number of them say that given the current environment it’s just the time, it’s the time now to do it. One of them even said he knew it was time because his kids were now asking him to not go to work,” says Lt. Bastian.
Bastian and Purdue say they understand the reasons for protests against police brutality
“Are there things we could do better? Absolutely and there are things we’re going to do better,” says Sheriff Purdue.
But they say something’s getting lost, that deaths and police abuse happening elsewhere in the country are hurting good officers and their families here who don’t deserve the blame.
“Our membership and our police officers are wiling to take on a lot of those stressors and face a lot of those difficulties and sometimes the ugliness that we’ve been facing on the streets, there’s also a burden on our families,” says Bastian.
“They just feel like they’ve been abandoned,” says Purdue.
FOP leaders worry about being able to keep their cities safe not only because they say they’re losing experienced officers but also because they worry it’ll be harder to attract new ones.
“Applications for police departments, sheriff departments for the last five years are down anywhere between 25 to 40 percent,” says Purdue.
Lt. Bastian says he’s talking to officers with just a few years experience now questioning their career choice.
“They and their loved ones are now saying, ‘Do I want to do twenty more years of this? What is twenty more years of this gonna look like?”
He and Purdue don’t necessarily have a fix. They’re just hoping something changes and soon.