Thefirst meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government was held on Wednesday, August 21, 2002, at 1:00 PM, in Ballroom 3 of the Holiday Inn in Frankfort, Kentucky. Senator Albert Robinson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Albert Robinson, Co-Chair; Representative Steve Riggs, Co-Chair; Senators Ernie Harris, Alice Kerr, Ed Miller, Ernesto Scorsone, Elizabeth Tori, Johnny Ray Turner, and David L. Williams; Representatives Adrian Arnold, Scott Brinkman, Jim Callahan, Ron Crimm, Mike Denham, Jon Draud, J. R. Gray, Charlie Hoffman, Stan Lee, Marie Rader, William Scott, Arnold Simpson, Brandon Smith, Roger Thomas, and Jim Wayne.
Guests: Commissioner Jody Lassiter and Steve Gregory, Department for Local Government; Allen Love, Versailles Chief of Police; Danny Carpenter, Flemingsburg Chief of Police; Butler County Sheriff Kenneth Morris; Charles Cornett, Kentucky State Police; Wayne Hall and John Schafer, University of Louisville Police Department; William May, Mayor of Frankfort; Herb Bowling and Stephanie Bingham, Department of Criminal Justice Training; Ronnie Bastin and Robert Stack, Lexington Police Department; Biddy Minton, Cave City Police Department; Bob Wiseman, Lexington Mayor’s Office; Brad Collins, Mayor of Morehead; Curtis Hardwick, Mayor of Columbia; Bill Nighbert, Mayor of Williamsburg; Karen Cunningham, Mayor of Madisonville; Linda Renshaw, Mayor’s Assistant, Hopkinsville; Robert Coleman, Paducah City Commissioner; Ed Meece, Bardstown City Administrator; Susan Barto, Mayor of Lyndon; Jerry Bamberger, City of Covington; Mary Scott, City of Bellevue; Kathi Marshall, Governor’s Office for Policy and Management; Jack Couch, Kentucky Council of Area Development Districts; Sylvia Lovely, Bill Thielen, Bert May, Joe Ewalt, Gene Stinchcomb, Kirby Ramsey, Dag Ryan, Joe Mefford, Jerry Deaton, and Terri Johnson, Kentucky League of Cities; Larry Ball, Kentucky Law Enforcement Council; Linda Gorton, Lexington-Fayette Urban-County Government Council Member; Dwayne Jett, Bracken County Judge/Executive; Gary Moore, Boone County Judge/Executive; Dick Murgatroyd, Kenton County Judge/Executive; David Martin and Shellie Hampton, Kentucky County Judge/Executive Association; and Jack Eversole and Ashley Willoughby, Barren River Area Development District.
LRC Staff: Jamie Franklin, Donna Gaines, Mark Mitchell, Joe Pinczewski-Lee, Alice Carter, Karen Crabtree, Rebecca Mullins, Matt Trebelhorn, Donna Holiday, Christy Bullock, Bryan Sunderland, Jay Hartz, Bob Simon, Roger Hogan, Ryan Shryock, and Cheryl Walters.
Senator Robinson welcomed everyone and stated that this was the first of three meetings that was going to be held by the Committee. He announced that the meeting would be chaired by Representative Riggs as well as himself. Senator Robinson then turned the meeting over to Representative Riggs.
Representative Riggs stated that the first item of business was welcome remarks by Mr. Steve Gregory, General Counsel for the Department for Local Government, who was representing Commissioner Jody Lassiter. Mr. Gregory thanked the Committee for meeting during the conference and noted it had been an informative and well attended conference. Representative Riggs added that the Committee might hear from Commissioner Lassiter should he arrive later in the meeting.
Representative Riggs stated that the purpose of the meeting was to discuss the salaries, recruitment and retention of local law enforcement officials. He said local and state officials were invited so the Committee could learn more about what the problems are in law enforcement recruitment and how the Committee can address and draw attention to those problems.
Representative Riggs first introduced Chief Allen Love of the Versailles Police Department and President of the Kentucky Association of Chiefs of Police. Chief Love told the committee that the reasons police officers want to change places of employment are not all based on salary. He stated that the issue of salary is important, but it is not the only reason officers look at different places to advance in their careers. Chief Love noted that most officers realize that they will not get rich in the profession of law enforcement and that is not the reason they are in that profession. But, he said officers must also be paid a wage that is fair so they can provide for their families, while they are working, as well in the future when they retire. Chief Love stated that it is very important that employers provide hazardous duty retirement for all certified police and peace officers in the state. On issues of recruitment and retention, he we are now experiencing the growing pain of the police officers’ professional standards bill that was passed several years ago, which requires all officers who carry weapons to be trained and certified. Chief Love told the Committee that the Kentucky State Police are presently recruiting locally trained police officers and this has upset some police chiefs in the state. He noted that today’s officers are career minded and are looking for ways to advance their own career. Chief Love said this is where small agencies have a problem competing with larger agencies. In small agencies, he pointed out that there are only a few positions of advancement and officers feel they are stuck or become stagnant with no where else to advance. Small agencies must do more to provide challenges or advancement for their officers, show their officers that they are appreciated, and provide the best working conditions possible for their officers. He added that keeping officers involved in the department helps smaller agencies retain officers as well. In closing, Chief Love told the Committee that this is a problem that will not soon be resolved. He said there are stresses that officers experience on a daily basis that other professions do not experience.
Representative Riggs recognized Representative Denham for the next introduction. Representative Denham introduced Chief Danny Carpenter of the Flemingsburg Police Department. Chief Carpenter told the Committee that during the last five years, he has lost three officers to other departments for higher pay. He noted that up until last year, police officers in his department were making $6.50 per hour, which is just a little over $14,000 a year. Now the officers are making $8.80 per hour, which is better but in other departments, they are still leaving for more money. Chief Carpenter stated that another issue is hazardous duty retirement to which Chief Love referred. He said his department is fortunate because they have hazardous duty retirement in Flemingsburg. Chief Carpenter told the Committee that hazardous duty retirement would be their second concern, with money being their first concern. He informed the Committee that there are 261 city police departments in the state, and out of that 261, 228 are fourth through sixth class cities. So 87% of the police departments in Kentucky are small and made up of ten officers or less. Chief Carpenter stated that Kentucky’s fourth, fifth and sixth class city police departments need to be looked at in order to help them. He said he did not know what the answer would be, but suggested longevity pay--the longer a person stays with a department, he would receive some kind of a bonus. Chief Carpenter added the younger officers especially needed to be given an incentive to stay at their department.
Senator Robinson introduced Sheriff Kenneth Morris, Butler County Sheriff and President of the Kentucky Sheriffs’ Association. Sheriff Morris told the Committee that he can speak for the small departments. He said he has three full-time deputies to patrol the county which has a population of around 13,500 and 450 square miles. Sheriff Morris stated that his department does not have hazardous duty retirement. He noted that every small department can relate to low pay and that is why his deputies work overtime so they can get more pay. Departments in his area make between $9 and 12 per hour, which is not much considering the training and what is expected of them. Sheriff Morris told the Committee that there is simply not enough officers to go around. He noted that the ideal nationwide average is one officer for every 750 people, but in his area, there is about one officer for every 3,500 people. Sheriff Morris stated that a better ratio needs to be looked at because the young officers get discouraged because they do not have the manpower. As far as the sheriffs are concerned, he said he thought the fee system, especially for small departments, is outdated. Sheriff Morris explained that they do not generate enough fees in their county to take care of the sheriff’s department so they have to rely on the fiscal court to subsidize their pay. He said he didn’t know what the answers were, but the problems do need to be addressed.
Mr. Charles Cornett, with the Kentucky State Police (KSP), was the next speaker introduced by Senator Robinson. Mr. Cornett told the Committee that the KSP has similar problems and he knows what the local law enforcement agencies are going through. He noted that during the last five years, 128 people have left the KSP to go to federal agencies because they pay more. Mr. Cornett stated that a lot of departments are hurting for money because compared to other agencies in the state, KSP is way down the scale in total pay. He said the KSP is fine as far as benefits are concerned, such as hazardous duty retirement. Mr. Cornett told the Committee that the KSP is trying to get a handle on the problem themselves by giving an exit form to people who leave. The form asks such questions as, were they satisfied with the department, was the pay enough, were they able to support their families, any problems with recruiting, etc. He stated that there are a lot of qualified people who need jobs and want to be state troopers. Mr. Cornett noted that it is not that the KSP is actively recruiting them, but they are wanting to come to the KSP. In addition, he told the Committee that the KSP needs extra training facilities.
Representative Riggs stopped the testimony briefly to announce that Representative Meeks was in an automobile accident on his way to the meeting.
Representative Riggs next introduced Officer Wayne Hall, University of Louisville police officer and President of the Kentucky Association of University Law Enforcement Administrators. Officer Hall told the Committee that his organization hoped to have legislation for the 2003 session of the General Assembly that the Committee and legislature would support. He noted that during the 2002 session, his group had HB 568, that did not pass, which was permissive language allowing universities to put their police officers into the hazardous duty pension system if they so wished to participate. He noted that presently, out of the eight universities, six of those are under some state retirement, and five are under hazardous duty (the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky are not). Officer Hall stated that his group’s biggest problem is, that even though comparing their salaries with the larger departments in Jefferson County, they are $8,000 or $9,000 below those average salaries. He noted that the university departments lose the majority of their officers to smaller cities like Shelbyville, Shepherdsville, and Shively. He said those officers make a few thousand dollars more, but those officers also have the hazardous duty pension coverage that his group does not. Officer Hall pointed out that there has been a 110% turnover over the last 11 years at the university where he is employed. He noted that all of those people said they left due to not having hazardous duty pension coverage and not solely due to pay issues. Officer Hall stated that as a result of steady personnel loss, that they were constantly trying to recruit and train officers. He said it also puts a burden on the Department of Criminal Justice Training to try to fit people in for training.
Senator Robinson commented that the Committee was very much aware of the battle between the smaller and larger departments with the smaller cities and counties not being able to adequately pay and compensate their officers resulting in a larger city, county or the state taking them. He agreed that there are problems and that the Committee needs to look into the situation. He said they should also try to get some protection for the smaller cities and counties or give them some money to help compensate the officers sufficiently. Senator Robinson noted that there has been some advancement made in regard to hazardous duty coverage, thanks to the Fred Capps bill that recently passed the General Assembly. He also noted that cities and counties are already authorized to provide hazardous duty pension coverage if they so choose.
Representative Riggs recognized Mayor Bill Nighbert of Williamsburg, and Mr. Joe Ewalt, with the Kentucky League of Cities, who had signed up to speak. Mayor Nighbert told the Committee that he cannot disagree with anything that has been said, but that the opportunities for cities to pay police officers is limited by their abilities to raise money and taxes. He also noted that tax reform is one of the issues that cities have been advocating. He said hazardous duty coverage is a great thing, but the city match on hazardous duty pay is 16.7 percent of each officer’s pay. It is quite an expensive item to cover, and the money is hard to come by. Mayor Nighbert stated that cities do not have a lot of ways to raise money. He noted that he id very pro-law enforcement, that his son is a police officer, and that he knows the pay is low and the risks are high. Mayor Nighbert stressed that he would like to work with the Committee and the police officers to do all that they can, but they also need avenues to raise the money.
Mr. Ewalt told the Committee that there is quite a bit of pressure on cities to provide for extra expenses such as equipment and liability insurance for police officers. He noted that cities’ costs have almost doubled since 1994 on police expenses and public safety. Mr. Ewalt added that it has gone from 29 percent of a city’s budget for police to 40 percent, and that 40 percent was the average.
Representative Riggs stated, for example, if his community only spends 23 percent on law enforcement out of their budget, something is out of whack there or maybe they do not need law enforcement as badly as another community. He said that is a good benchmark that those people need to know that 40 percent is the average and if your department is getting less than that, then you realize that you are below the standard. But there may be good reason to be because it could be that the city would rather spend money on other things in its budget. He said that the debate has always been, are local governments spending the money where the public wants it or are they spending it on something that is not the number one critical need. Mr. Ewalt replied that as the numbers indicate, public safety is a very important issue to residents of local communities. If they are not getting good service, the mayor and council members will hear about it very fast. He explained that the numbers are going to vary depending on the risks in the community. If a community has big chemical plants or other kinds of operations that require specialty response, their numbers are going to rise. In a smaller community, that percentage could easily be less without it meaning that public safety is being neglected.
Senator Williams stated that the quality of our local police officers and the improvement made the last few years is unparalleled. He noted that the training and professionalism of police officers has changed over the last 20 years, because that have gone from night watchmen, to a professional staff that is interchangeable between departments and locales. Now, you can go to the smallest town in Kentucky and find people who are well trained that would be qualified to be a police officer on any force in the state including the state police. Senator Williams said he thought that is something that Kentucky ought to feel very proud about and feel very positive about. He stated that what we are dealing with is the pressure that has been created by people being more marketable. We have to realize that we are trying to retain a different person of various qualifications, and it is a problem that local governments are going to have to address.
Referring to subsection (2) of 02 SB 100, Senator Williams said it doesn’t particularly bother him if someone voluntarily enters into an employment contract if they are trained, and if they leave sooner than a certain amount of time. It seems fair that they should reimburse the agency for their training because the agency that hires them will probably end up agreeing to reimburse the new employing agency. But he said it does somewhat bother him that someone who works for a state agency, as this legislation states, would depend upon the agency that hired the individual to reimburse that agency for costs that are incurred. He said he would like that addressed because he thought that was a situation that might affect the employability of police officers who have signed an employment contract. Senator Harris, sponsor of SB 100, explained that this language was a compromise that was reached during the session which applies to all agencies. He said the individual is not harmed in this, it is the gaining and losing agency that would make adjustments for anyone who left. But the key to it is that the individual could move as he or she saw career opportunities present themselves and they would not personally have to come up with any training or equipment costs.
Representative Callahan asked members to bow their heads in a moment of silence for former Representative Kenny Rapier, who passed away on August 5.
Representative Callahan then continued by asking Chief Love if he was speaking to part-time employees or strictly full-time employees. Chief Love said he was speaking to full-time, certified police officers. Representative Callahan also asked if any of the speakers had suggestions on how cities could raise money for law enforcement. Sheriff Morris replied that the fee system needs to be restructured because it is outdated.
Representative Brinkman asked what has caused law enforcement costs to go up. Sheriff Morris replied that equipment and the cost of insurance has gone up. Mayor Nighbert agreed that technology has caused law enforcement costs to go up.
Representative Draud asked if police departments had salary schedules, where, after an officer has worked for a certain amount of years, he gets an automatic increase in salary. Chief Love replied that his department does have a salary schedule. He said after one year, an officer gets a substantial increase in salary after the training and probation period have been completed. Then again after five, 11, and 15 years there is a built-in increase that is automatic with them being in the department for that many years.
Representative Arnold asked what it costs to train a police officer. Mr. Herb Bowling with the Department of Criminal Justice Training, answered that it cost approximately $12,600 for a 16-week program.
Representative Lee asked the speakers what they wanted the Committee and General Assembly to do. He wondered why this is not just a local issue. Mayor Nighbert replied that cities are limited to ways they can raise money. He suggested that the General Assembly look at tax reform for cities and perhaps a local sales tax. Mr. Ewalt stated that cities need an increase in flexibility to collect taxes.
Senator Tori asked Sheriff Morris if departments have discussed or even approached the subject of some ways to link various small departments so they would have the money to operate efficiently or better. Sheriff Morris said they have discussed that subject and that it may be one of the answers.
Regarding the expense to cities of having police officers sitting in court all day long, Representative Smith said there is not a lot that can be done about it. He asked if he was correct in saying that the state police can use their comp time for that, and if so, would that be something that could help local police officers financially. Chief Love said they had tried to address that during the last session of the General Assembly, but the bill did not get out of committee. He noted that a bill was passed to allow county employees to use comp time. Chief Love said his officers have personally told him that they would prefer to have comp time instead of overtime. But under the present labor laws, he said he could not allow them to do that. Chief Love stated that allowing comp time usage would be a way to help the cities financially.
Referring to SB 100, Representative Denham asked if it was having any effect on the issue of retaining police officers, and would it have an impact down the road. Officer Hall replied that from his perspective, he thought SB 100 would help down the road, but it will not be a total cure. He noted that it has not been in effect long enough to have an impact. Representative Denham also asked if Kentucky was losing many officers to other states. The consensus from all of the speakers was “no.”
Representative Gray commented that he was told that Kentucky had one or more cities throughout the state that were not complying with the law passed in 1998 in regard to confiscated weapons being turned over to the state police for auction. Also, that there might be a large number of weapons that are being set on by some departments, that if they were turned in, there might be more money available to these small police departments for their protective armor. He said if KLC or any of the police chiefs know where those weapons are that are not being turned in, it might be well to inform them of the provisions of the law that the departments are supposed to turn them over to the state police.
Senator Williams commented that the local effort needed to be looked at as part of the larger picture.
Representative Crimm announced that it would be proper that this Committee go on record commending the young folks from Valley Station, in Jefferson County, for the outstanding job they are doing in representing the Commonwealth of Kentucky in the Little League World Series.
Lastly, Senator Robinson recognized Commissioner Jody Lassiter, of the Department for Local Government, to address the Committee. Commissioner Lassiter thanked the Committee for planning their meeting to coincide with the Governor’s Local Issues Conference, which just concluded with 650 local and state officials participating this year. He told the Committee that by their meeting during the Conference, it gives local government officials the opportunity to attend their meeting and to personally take to their legislators.
Senator Williams asked Commissioner Lassiter if it was the Department’s intent to follow the Kentucky statutes and make sure that the coal severance tax counties receive 50 percent of the funds. Commissioner Lassiter replied that the Department will abide by the Governor’s spending plan.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 2:55 p.m.