FRANKFORT – When it comes to keeping us safe, it can be easy to take for granted those who protect us – until tragedy re-reminds us that their job can carry a steep price.
That was very much on everyone’s mind last week, when House Speaker Greg Stumbo joined with the father of Kentucky State Police Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder – who was killed in the line of duty on Sept. 13 – to pledge their support for actions that would help reduce the dangers frontline officers all too often face. It is a cause I support as well.
KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer said his agency would review what options may be working elsewhere and make recommendations in time for the 2016 legislative session, which starts in January. This could include bulletproof laminate for the windows of cruisers, something that could have saved Trooper Ponder’s life, and other equipment or changes in training.
Trooper Ponder had only been with KSP a relatively short amount of time, but all accounts indicate his work personified an agency that is nearing its 70th anniversary.
It was created because leaders felt Kentucky needed a statewide department to complement the work being done by local law enforcement.
It replaced the Kentucky Highway Patrol, which had been formed in the mid-1930s and had 200 officers at the time. Those first troopers earned the equivalent of $18,000 today, and while a lot has obviously changed since then, the gray uniform we associate with our troopers has roughly stayed the same.
The “Thin Gray Line,” as KSP has since become known, lives on quite literally in a new academy that was dedicated earlier this spring in Frankfort. As a symbolic touch, a gray line has been added to the sidewalks used by those who work and train there.
In addition to taking advantage of the opportunities this modern facility provides, KSP is also at the forefront in using technology and social media to better connect with and protect those it serves. Its crime lab, which began just a year after KSP started, now serves well over 400 local and state departments, for example, analyzing evidence to solve crimes and provide answers that only forensics can give.
Recently, the agency unveiled a free smartphone app – KSPOLICE on Apple and Android devices – that makes it easier for users to access information and submit anonymous tips. At the same time, KSP can use the app to provide warnings to specific locations, from a region of the state down to a single building. These announcements will provide updates on such things as severe weather, prison escapes and missing people.
As the General Assembly looks for ways to add to these gains and increase officer safety, we will keep the legacy of Trooper Ponder and other fallen officers in mind. To make sure they are never forgotten, their names are, or soon will be, etched in a memorial commissioned on their behalf in the late 1990s.
It is located in front of the Department of Criminal Justice Training building in Richmond, and on Oct. 17th, the Kentucky Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation is hosting a 5K/One Mile run in that community to raise money and awareness. If you are interested in learning more, please visit www.klemf.org online.
Our enduring hope, of course, is that no more names after Trooper Ponder’s will be added to the memorial in the years ahead. While that of course cannot be guaranteed, it is crucial that we never stop trying to achieve that goal. Those who protect us deserve no less.
If you have any suggestions or concerns regarding matters like this or any other affecting the state, please let me know. To reach me, you can write to Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at Rick.Rand@lrc.ky.gov.
To leave a message for me or for any legislator by phone, please call 800-372-7181. For those with a hearing impairment, the number is 800-896-0305.
I hope to hear from you soon.