Thefourth meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Transportation was held on<Day> Tuesday, September 2, 2003, at 1:00 PM, in Room 131 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Virgil Moore, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Virgil Moore, Co-Chair; Senators Charlie Borders, Paul Herron Jr, Albert Robinson, Ernesto Scorsone, Gary Tapp, and Johnny Ray Turner; Representatives Eddie Ballard, Denver Butler, Howard Cornett, Mike Denham, Jimmie Lee, Paul Marcotte, Charles Miller, Russ Mobley, Lonnie Napier, Rick Nelson, Don Pasley, Rick Rand, Ancel Smith, Jim Stewart, Jim Thompson, John Vincent, and Mike Weaver. Senator Leeper attended the meeting via teleconference from Paducah Community College.
Guests: Commissioner Pat Simpson, Colonel Tim Hazlette, Lt. Colonel Rob Miller, Trooper Bob Shultz, Post #16 (Henderson), and Trooper Tackett Wilson, Post #7 (Richmond).
LRC Staff: Kathy Jones, John Snyder, Bryan Sunderland, Geri Grigsby, and Linda Hughes.
Chairman Moore opened the meeting by informing the members that due to a close friend’s death, co-chair Representative Hubert Collins was unable to attend today’s meeting and requested that the first item on the Committee’s agenda, a discussion of the motor vehicle titling process, be postponed until the Committee’s October meeting.
Representative Lee moved to approve the Committee’s July 1, and August 5, 2003 minutes, as submitted. Representative Miller seconded the motion, which passed by voice vote.
A review of the Kentucky State Police (KSP) was presented by Colonel Tim Hazlette, Trooper Bob Shultz, Post #16 (Henderson), and Trooper Tackett Wilson, Post #7 (Richmond).
Colonel Hazlette stated that there are approximately 1701 employees in the State Police. Thirty (17 sworn and 12 civilians) worked in the Commissioner’s Office; 1252 (843 sworn and 409 civilians) in police services; 183 (10 sworn and 173 civilians) in technical support; 113 (90 sworn and 23 civilians) in executive services; and 123 (9 sworn and 114 civilians) in forensic services. As for officer breakdown, Colonel Hazlette said there are 31 (22 in enforcement and 9 in support) captains; 47 (38 in enforcement and 9 in support) lieutenants; 113 (100 in enforcement and 13 in support) sergeants; and 701 (675 sworn and 26 civilians) troopers. Colonel Hazlette clarified that 58 of the 90 sworn officers in executive services are the current troopers in the training academy class of 2003.
Senator Moore asked for Colonel Hazlette to explain the KSP’s mission statement., Colonel Hazlette stated the primary goals of the Kentucky State Police are: (1) to reduce, prevent, and eliminate crime, (2) safeguard individuals and property, and (3) to reduce traffic violations and traffic related fatalities.
Chairman Moore asked the age of the State Police’s automobile fleet. Colonel Hazlette said that to his knowledge there are no cars in the fleet older than 5 years, and, thanks to the general assembly, the fleet was in the best shape that it had been in a long time.
Representative Lee asked how many miles would be put on a cruiser before it was replaced. Colonel Hazlette said they try to not exceed the 100,000 mile benchmark.
Representative Lee asked what was the package price for a new police cruiser and how much that automobile brought when sold at auction. Colonel Hazlette stated that the package price was in the neighborhood of $22,000, for a Ford Crown Victoria, and that the Crown Victorias were bringing around $2,500 to $3,000 at auctions. Colonel Hazlette stated that detective cars usually brought around $4,000. He also said those cars with over 100,000 miles or more are sold, no matter how old they are.
Representative Butler referred to a recent problem of KSP service revolvers having a 17% failure rate and inquired as to whether or not the State Police had bought or would be purchasing a different brand of weapons that were found to be 100% accurate. Colonel Hazlette stated that those weapons had been ordered and should arrive in mid-October of this year.
Representative Lee asked the number of personnel employed above the rank of captain. Colonel Hazlette said there were nine, four majors, four lieutenant colonels, and himself, a colonel.
Representative Mobley questioned why some posts had more detectives and troopers than others. Colonel Hazlette said that the number of personnel at each post was determined by that particular post’s needs.
Representative Weaver questioned why there were more vehicles than troopers. Colonel Hazlette stated that the State Police had many vehicles that were not involved in its daily patrol, such as cargo trucks, wreckers, as well as several car pools of replacement vehicles for its employees’ use when their assigned vehicle was out-of-service being repaired. Colonel Hazlette also stated that automobiles that were to be sold would also be on State Police inventory for several months awaiting an auction.
Senator Tapp questioned the ratio between civilian employees to sworn officers. He asked Colonel Hazlette if there was any way to streamline the number of civilian employees and put more sworn officers on the road. Colonel Hazlette said the KSP was diligently working to become a paperless agency and reduce the need for civilian employees, however many of the civilian positions are for dispatchers, driver testing, and maintenance. Areas, Colonel Hazlette said could not readily be reduced.
Senator Robinson asked how much of a trooper’s time was involved in completing paperwork versus patrolling highways. Colonel Hazlette stated around 30% of a trooper’s time was utilized in paperwork and court appearances. Trooper Shultz said about 20% of his time was donated to paperwork. However, he noted that he was one of the lucky troopers that had a laptop computer in his cruiser, which greatly reduced his paperwork time. Trooper Shultz noted that not all cruisers were equipped with laptop computers.
Senator Robinson asked Colonel Hazlette to supply the Committee with the dollar figure it would take to equip all cruisers with laptop computers, such as the one Trooper Shultz’ has in his cruiser.
Representative Cornett asked the state’s cost in training a state trooper. Colonel Hazlette said around $50,00 per trooper and that the State Police spends about $500,000 annually for such training.
Representative Cornett asked if raising a trooper’s salary would help eliminate the high number of troopers that resigned once they had been trained. Colonel Hazlette stated that raising their salary would go a long way in helping to reduce that number. Colonel Hazlette said that Kentucky ranked 4th or 5th in salary ($29,500 beginning salary) with our surrounding states. He stated that the State Police have lost officers to Jefferson County as well as Northern Kentucky law enforcement agencies and airport police because of their higher wages.
When asked what Kentucky’s State Police officers would have to be paid to stop them from moving on to other law enforcement jobs, Colonel Hazlette said around $34,00 to $35,000 a year. But he cautioned the Committee that pay was not the only incentive. He said that recently a female trooper left the State Police for the Boone County police force because as a single parent, Boone County’s health insurance plan only cost her $300 a year as opposed to the State’s, which cost over $600 year.
Senator Borders asked how long troopers were on probation after graduating from the academy. Colonel Hazlette said twelve months. Senator Borders also asked what troopers were paid while attending the academy and Colonel Hazlette replied $29,500.
Representative Marcotte questioned why the State Police frown upon troopers holding down second jobs, such as a security guard at Walmart. Colonel Hazlette stated that besides there being a statutory restriction for such employment, there could be an unclear determination of responsibility if something were to go wrong while the trooper was working his second job. Colonel Hazlette questioned who would be at fault or medically responsible if a trooper or a civilian was injured while the trooper was performing his security duty for Walmart. Would that responsibility fall to Walmart or the State? Colonel Hazlette went on to say that many of the state’s troopers hold second jobs, jobs that do not require law enforcement duties, such as construction, maintenance, and landscaping. Colonel Hazlette said that the State Police do not frown upon these types of jobs.
Colonel Hazlette said that the State Police recognizes the significance of it officers being able to earn extra money and that some law enforcement agencies contract with various organizations to do patrol type work. That, he said, eliminates any responsibility problems. Colonel Hazlette said that other officers could elect to work these functions for extra money, but state troopers are given compensatory time since the State Police is not allowed to pay its officers overtime. Colonel Hazlette noted that in any given year the force loses the work equivalent of 100 officers due to its troopers having to take off compensatory hours in order to maintain the allowable level of comp hours. He noted that some officers are off four to six months a year. Colonel Hazlette noted that it would be beneficial for all concerned if the State Police was allowed to pay its officers overtime.
Representative Marcotte questioned Colonel Hazlette on why there is such a backlog at the state’s crime labs. Colonel Hazlette said the KSP is doing its best to work within their budget to reduce backlogs, but he noted that personnel staffing has not kept up with the number of cases, arrests, and evidence they are required to process.
Senator Robinson asked Colonel Hazlette to supply the Committee with the number of troopers who have left the State’s law enforcement branch for similar positions elsewhere. He noted that what he was looking for was a comparison between apples and apples and not between apples and oranges. Colonel Hazlette said that he understood the request and would see that the Committee received the information.
Representative Mobley asked if there was a lack of opportunity for advancement in the State Police. Colonel Hazlette said there is not a problem for sworn personnel to advance but conceded that opportunities for advancement are much more limited for civilian employees.
Senator Tapp asked who pays for a trooper’s automobile insurance. Colonel Hazlette stated that officers are required to purchase their own insurance and then apply for a partial reimbursement through the Personnel Cabinet. He said there are very few companies that will underwrite insurance policies for police officers. He noted that insurance usually cost a trooper around $350 every six months. Colonel Hazlette commented that the State Police vehicles are the only group in the Commonwealth’s fleet that is not covered under the its umbrella policy. Senator Tapp asked how long this had been required and Colonel Hazlette said troopers have always had to provide their own coverage.
Senator Tapp stated that if the state paid the officers’ insurance premiums that would be a raise for those officers. Colonel Hazlette said yes. Senator Robinson cautioned the Committee members that LRC’s State Government Committee deliberated this option and discovered a potential sovereign immunity problem.
Representative Stewart referred to an incident where a constituent of his was pulled over for DUI. He stated that this constituent’s work was such that often his face would be flush and his eyes red. As a result of his appearance, the officer believed him to be drinking and he was arrested and given a urine test. Representative Stewart stated that his constituent was given a court date prior to the results of the urine test. He stated that his constituent would have to plead not guilty and would then have to appear in court a second time once the urine test results were available. He stated that, in his opinion, this was an inefficient way to utilize officers’ time, as well as his constituent’s. Colonel Hazlette agreed and said that in some cases this does happen and that the State Police at times is at the mercy of county judges and other county officials. He apologized and admitted that it could take up to 90 days or longer to receive test results depending upon which lab receives the sample.
Representative Mobley asked if there were any Hispanics on the police force. Colonel Hazlette said there are several Spanish-speaking officers and two or three Hispanic officers. Representative Mobley then asked if there were any oriental officers. Colonel Hazlette said no.
Representative Miller asked if a criminal history check that some businesses request have caused the backlog in the crime lab. Colonel Hazlette stated that the crime lab was not involved in these history checks and that was done by non-sworn personnel in another area.
Representative Weaver asked if the computer laptops presently in some of the cruisers had the capability of reading the barcode on the back of an individual’s driver’s license. Lt. Colonel Rob Miller said only those laptops that had an attached special card reader device could read the barcode. Lt. Colonel Miller stated that although about 95% of the troopers stationed in Eastern Kentucky will have laptops in their cruisers within the next 18 months, many will not have the card reader device that Representative Weaver has referred to. Lt. Colonel Miller informed the members that Kentucky had purchased around 100 of these card reader devices from federal money it received from a pilot program and hoped to solicit additional funds in the near future for more of these devices.
Representative Denham asked what was the major reason for traffic fatalities. Colonel Hazlette said in his opinion, driver inattention and following too close behind another vehicle. Representative Denham asked if the State Police was doing any kind of awareness campaign. Colonel Hazlette said yes, through its “Drive to Stay Alive” program.
Chairman Moore questioned the accuracy of accident statistics being submitted to the federal government. He cited an example of his constituents who were in an accident and who were wearing their seat belts but had to be cut out of the belts by emergency personnel. The accident report was marked failure to wear a seat belt, which was inaccurate. Lt. Colonel Miller said it is possible for accident investigators to enter inaccurate information on those reports.
Chairman Moore asked Lt. Colonel Miller if fear of outside influences, including the federal government, Governor’s Office, Transportation Cabinet, etc., put undue pressure on the State Police to under report seat belt usage rates in Kentucky. Lt. Colonel Miller replied absolutely no pressure was placed upon the State Police or any other law enforcement agency to inaccurately report accident statistics. He said unfortunately as with anything, human error could cause an accident investigator to mistakenly enter bad data into the accident reporting system.
Representative Napier asked if the drug oxycontin was a major factor in traffic fatalities. Colonel Hazlette said he did not have any statistics to substantiate that. Representative Lee informed the members that there was a pilot program soon to be activated called the Kasper Program. He said this program would monitor the kinds of drugs an individual bought, as well as the name of the physician who prescribed the drug. Representative Lee noted that the Kasper Program should be a deterrent to those individuals using and prescribing oxycontin and other type drugs illegally.
Chairman Moore asked Colonel Hazlette’s opinion as to whether or not Kentucky should raise its speed limit. Colonel Hazlette stated that he did not have an opinion, but could tell the Committee that the State Police have not seen an appreciable difference in accident rates since it raised its speed limit from 55 mph to 65 mph.
In closing, Colonel Hazlette stated that the State Police needed, and would benefit from, a new training center and would be including such a center in its 2004 budget request.
With no further business before the Committee the meeting adjourned at 3:00 p.m.