KSP commissioner shoots holes in call for bullet resistant glass, exposes other safety concerns

12/16/2015 10:34 PM

FRANKFORT — Following the shooting death of Kentucky State Police Trooper Cameron Ponder in September, lawmakers and the state police have been investigating ways to keep troopers safe which included the possibility of installing bullet resistant glass — something that’s cracked under scrutiny.

Upon digging into the dilemma, Kentucky State Police Commissioner Rodney Brewer, said that he immediately found the bullet resistant laminate was not recommended for use in windshields or in the rear window, based on manufacturers recommendations. Additional investigation turned up more concerns with the reliability and safety of the product even for side windows.

Testifying before the Military, Veterans Affairs, and Public Protection committee on Wednesday, Brewer said that no law enforcement agency in North America utilizes the products. However, Canadian Royal Mounted Police have tested the product, but found “massive amount of clouding” as well as shredding within the material which created sharp shards of glass, and structural integrity issues.

“Our opinion on the limited research we had time to do…the technology is just not there yet,” Brewer told the committee.

With bullet resistant glass a nonviable product at this time, and “bullet proof glass” too heavy and too costly, there are other options to improve the safety and morale of officers, Brewer told committee members on Wednesday.

Proposed safety measures include:

  • Indoor firing range at the new KSP Academy
  • Replacement of marked cruisers
  • Glock firearm mounted flashlights and holsters
  • Pay advancement, longevity pay

All of the proposals come with a dollar figure in the millions, but they can keep troopers safer Brewer said.

When building the new academy, Brewer told the committee it was always an intention to eventually add on an indoor firing range. Since the KSP’s inception troopers have practiced at local ranges, and at farms and in fields across the state.

Building a new firing range would cost the state $2.1 to $2.3 million dollars, but it would allow troopers from across the state to take target practice any time of year in a variety or regulated scenarios.

Aging Fleet, High Miles

More than half of the marked KSP vehicles in the state police fleet have over 100,000 miles on the odometer. The state police have not been able to keep up with the “cycle through” of marked cruisers since the economic down turn in 2007.

In “normal years” the state police put 250 vehicles into service, but with shrinking budgets they’re only adding 125 cars a year — and the miles are adding up. Troopers drive 2.5 million miles a month, which equals, on average, 30 million miles a year.

With the aging cars and high miles the KSP spends $180,000 a month on maintenance of their fleet of cars. Currently there are 306 vehicles with more than 100,000 miles and 136 with more than 150,000 miles on the odometer.

Adding additional cars would cost the state around $7.1 million.

Long hours, low pay

Troopers are also among the lowest paid in of all seven surrounding states in starting salary. Only Tennessee pays less for their state law enforcement. Starting trooper pay is currently set a $37,382 in Kentucky; the seven state average is $43,428.

Brewer is asking for an additional $4,000 pay increase for all troopers, but he warned not all the dollars would actually land in troopers wallets thanks to increased pension costs.

Of the $7.84 million price tag that encompasses a pay increase only $4 million would go towards salary, $3.84 million would have be put towards expanding pension contributions, he said.

There’s also the possibility that as the state police diminishes in total trooper size — they’re down to 881 sworn officers in 2015, from 910 in 2008 — that there will be a push to accommodate longevity.

In the General Assembly’s hands

Many members spoke out on Wednesday in support of the recommendations, including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, who initially called for the bullet resistant glass.

“I think it was eye-opening,” Stumbo said. “Certainly for a lot of members you heard a lot of support here today, from members, who, I believe will carry that message forward in the General Assembly.”


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