Lawmakers hear innovative solutions, legislative responses to police shortage

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Kentucky police departments came before the Interim Joint Committee on Local Governments Tuesday to address the statewide shortage of police officers. The Fraternal Order of Police in Lexington has complained for weeks about a shortage of officers in the police department and difficulty recruiting replacements.

“This is an issue that all of our communities are struggling with whether they’re large or small,” says Shawn Butler, executive director for the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police.

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Police chiefs say over the last 10 years, recruitment is down 80-85%.

“People are just not coming into this field and we have to look for ways to overcome this,” says Butler.

Officers at the meeting gave suggestions to state legislators to help departments make police work look more attractive. Police chiefs say some changes that have already been made include better pay, better benefits and better working conditions with equipment updates like new cars and load-bearing vests. One way police departments like Henderson PD are trying to recruit more officers is through adjusting shift hours. It aims to get rid of 8 hours five days a week and move towards 12 hour shifts fewer times a week to allow for a better work-life balance.

“If we can take care of the officer’s physical health, the mental health, take care of them financially to be competitive with wages, give them the right equipment, those things are imperative to us to not only recruit but also retain,” says Chief Heath Cox of Henderson Police.

State Senator Damon Thayer asked the chiefs if movements like “Defund the Police” were hurting police recruitment. Butler says in a profession that is already unsafe, the idea of having money taken from departments doesn’t help.

“We by no stretch think that we are perfect and there’s not bad apples in there. There are and there are in any profession,” says Butler. “But I would say at the last session we were here at the table with Senate Bill 80 and we said you know what, you cannot have reform unless you give us the tools to have reform.”