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To boost hiring, Ky. state police changes applicant requirements

Applicants are no longer required to have prior experience or a college degree and can earn a 60-credit degree through the police academy

James Mayse

LEXINGTON, Ky. — A Kentucky State Police change in its hiring policy has been somewhat successful in attracting more applicants to the agency.

While the change has helped, more needs to be considered to draw strong candidates to the state police, KSP Public Affairs Officer Corey King said last week.

KSP changed its hiring process so that applicants were no longer required to have prior law enforcement or military experience, or a college degree. The change allowed people with three years of work experience to apply. If accepted, a candidate would receive 60 hours of college credit through his or her training at the state police academy and would graduate the academy with an associate’s degree in criminal justice.

The state Department of Criminal Justice Training offers a similar program, which is used by the Owensboro Police Department and Daviess County Sheriff’s Department.

Like law enforcement agencies across the state, KSP has struggled with attracting applicants and retaining troopers. In recent years, a strong private-sector job market has affected law enforcement recruitment, with employers seeking candidates with the same skills that make for quality law enforcement officers. Departments have also seen a series of retirements due to concerns over the state’s pension system for police officers.

“Our idea is, if we can get more people into the funnel, we can shape what’s coming out,” King said last week. The program was geared toward people who went directly into the workforce from high school who “would make good troopers,” King said.

“If they started a family early, they may not have had the time or money to obtain a college degree,” King said.

The change in KSP’s policy “has generated more interest and applications on the front end,” King said. But, as you might expect, the KSP academy is demanding, so not every applicant that is selected to attend the academy graduates.

“The academy weeds out so many,” he said. “It’s tough going through the academy.”

King said the hiring policy has “has helped, but there’s not a lot of data” on how much.

“This is one easy step to get more people applying,” King said. “Those people who don’t have a college degree are graduating with a college degree. But to say that it has proven to be the answer, I don’t think so.”

More steps will likely have to be taken to continue attracting candidates to the agency. An increase in trooper salaries will eventually have to be considered, King said.

Last fall, OPD Chief Art Ealum, while also discussing officer hiring, said increasing salaries for officers will have to be part of the hiring strategy in the future.