Call to Order and Roll Call
The6th meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection was held on Wednesday, December 16, 2015, at 10:00 AM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Albert Robinson, Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Albert Robinson, Co-Chair; Representative Will Coursey, Co-Chair; Senators Perry B. Clark, C.B. Embry Jr., Carroll Gibson, Ernie Harris, Gerald A. Neal, Dennis Parrett, Dan "Malano" Seum, and Whitney Westerfield; Representatives Robert Benvenuti III, Regina Bunch, Tom Burch, Larry Clark, Leslie Combs, Tim Couch, Ron Crimm, Myron Dossett, Jim Glenn, David Hale, Kenny Imes, Donna Mayfield, David Meade, Terry Mills, Rick G. Nelson, Tom Riner, Dean Schamore, Rita Smart, and Russell Webber.
Guests: Greg Stumbo, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Rodney Brewer, Commissioner, and Angela Parker, Strategic Planning Commander, Kentucky State Police.
LRC Staff: Erica Warren, Jessica Zeh, Jonathan Philpot, and Rhonda Schierer.
A motion was made and seconded to approve the November 12, 2015, meeting minutes. The minutes were approved.
State Police Safety Measures
Commissioner Brewer provided the committee with a PowerPoint presentation on Kentucky State Police Safety Proposals and a report on recommendations for improving trooper safety, both of which are a part of this official record. Commissioner Brewer stated that Speaker Greg Stumbo requested that a study be conducted regarding safety measures after the tragic death of Kentucky State Police (KSP) Trooper Cameron Ponder, who was shot and killed in a vehicle pursuit on September 13, 2015.
One suggestion presented to the KSP was to modify the existing fleet of patrol vehicles with bullet resistant windshields using either a window laminate product or installing aftermarket ballistic glass. After being notified of the suggestion of ballistic windshields or bullet resistant windshields, KSP sought to identify any law enforcement agencies in the United States who has had experience with these products. KSP found no state police or highway patrol agencies had either on any of their patrol cars. The International Association of Chiefs of Police was also unable to identify any municipal or small agencies using these. There is no window glass product on the market that actually is bullet proof. Although many products may be extremely resistant, enough rounds will break the glass.
Commissioner Brewer stated that an abundance of caution is necessary when considering any modification to a pursuit vehicle that involves the safe performance of the vehicle. KSP incurs an average of 188 vehicle crashes per year and participates in an average of 114 pursuits. In a collision, the window glass is engineered to shatter or not shatter in ways that protect the occupants from cut injuries and to permit the frame of the vehicle to disperse collision energy around the passenger cabin. Changing the window glass changes behavior of the glass in the event of a crash. Adding ballistic laminate changes the behavior to the glass. The laminated glass could be expected to keep the window glass intact and potentially move through the passenger compartment similar to an oversized razor blade and become extremely dangerous to any occupants. In addition to safety concerns in a crash, the laminate must be durable enough to withstand the thousands of cycles of the window opening and closing without rub marks and scratches obscuring visibility over the life of the windows.
Bullet resistant windshields are substantially heavier and thicker than standard windshield glass. Because the bullet resistant windshield will not break the way a standard equipment windshield would, the behavior of the window frame could be altered in a crash. Other systems could be affected by the changed behavior of the glass as well. These changes could have an impact on whether KSP pursuit vehicles would continue to meet Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Chrysler’s police vehicle engineering team is reviewing KSP’s inquiry and preparing a response to answer all of the questions and concerns. Every component of the Dodge Charger police pursuit car is engineered and tested to work together for maximum safety and performance. The manufacturer’s input should be carefully weighed in the ultimate decision whether to modify the majority of the KSP patrol fleet with bullet resistant windshields.
Commissioner Brewer discussed the need for a firing range for sworn troopers and officers. He stated that every officer is required to demonstrate proficiency and must re-qualify quarterly with their firearms. The ability to apply that knowledge and use those skills appropriately is critical. The greatest hindrance to KSP firearms instruction is the lack of a firing range. The agency has never owned or controlled its own firing range since its creation in 1948. KSP borrows time for cadet training and mandatory officer qualifications on indoor and outdoor ranges. A dedicated indoor firing range can be set up and used to affect the best possible conditions to ensure officer skills meet or exceed standards in the use of firearms. Phase 2 of the KSP Academy construction project includes the addition of an indoor firing range on the property in Frankfort. The estimated cost of construction is $2,016,652.
Commissioner Brewer discussed the need for a replacement program for marked cruisers. He stated that KSP’s vehicle fleet includes 211 marked cruisers with over 100,000 miles and 85 marked cruisers with over 150,000 miles on them. The maintenance and repairs on high mileage vehicles cost the agency over $180,000 each month. Most state police and highway patrol agencies plan to retire patrol vehicles at 100,000 miles and purchase new vehicles to meet that goal. KSP prefers the same standard but has been unable to achieve that goal due to budget restrictions. KSP has not received capital outlay funding for cruisers since 2003 and has reduced annual vehicle purchases to remain within normal appropriations. KSP should purchase 250 new vehicles each year to prevent the fleet from aging beyond the expected useful life of each car. The agency has requested $7,145,000 in FY17 for purchase of fleet vehicles.
Commissioner Brewer discussed the option of Glock mounted flashlights to officer’s handguns. He stated that a weapon mounted light is available and gives troopers many advantages. The light mounts to the Glock handgun in a position that allows the trooper to operate the light with his thumb to keep the light on the threat and leaves the other hand free as the trooper is moving through an area. In a shooting incident, the trooper can fire the weapon with both hands, as trained, which increases accuracy. Providing this simple piece of equipment gives troopers a tactical advantage in a high-risk situation. Purchase of the Glock mounted flashlight and holster for all KSP officers will cost approximately $179,000.
Commissioner Brewer finished the report with the recommendation of a pay advancement plan. The starting salary for KSP troopers was last increased in 2007. Due to the lack of salary growth troopers are retiring in their first year of eligibility. This causes the agency to not only lose much needed experience but to also incur the cost of training new cadets to replace the early retirements. KSP is requesting $7.84 million budget increase to fund a $4,000 raise that would become effective July 1, 2016. KSP is also requesting an additional $386,000 in FY18. This funding would allow a salary increase of five percent to all Chapter 16 sworn personnel who reach 10, 15, or 20 years of service. This would be awarded on or after August 1, 2017. The KSP proposes to establish the 10, 15, and 20 year pay advancement plan permanently as a statutory addition to KRS Chapter 16.
In response to a question and comments from Chairman Robinson, Commissioner Brewer stated that KSP has spoken to officers in the field regarding the requests to study various safety measures, and they are all happy that safety measures are being studied for their future safety. They also have an overwhelming desire for a raise.
In response to a question from Representative Burch, Commissioner Brewer stated that KSP did historical research on KSP related deaths since 1948. There have been 30 deaths, and 43 percent of them were from gunfire. Only Trooper Ponder’s death occurred with gunfire through a windshield. Nationwide data shows that vehicle-related crashes have outpaced gun related deaths among troopers.
In response to a question from Representative Glenn, Commissioner Brewer stated that there are four hundred to five hundred marked cruisers.
There being no further business, the meeting was adjourned.