As the Kentucky State Police drone launched hundreds of feet into the air, 7-year-old Wayne Casey’s eyes grew large.
KSP Lt. Hunter Martin explained that the drone is used to investigate crashes or search for missing people while saving money that would have been spent to have a helicopter do the same job. However, the only thing Wayne wanted to hear was when it would be his turn to man the controls.
“It was so cool,” Wayne said excitedly after his first time piloting a drone. “I want the very same one when I become a trooper. It’s so much fun being able to fly it real far.”
The drone demonstration was one of several attractions Thursday during KSP’s first recruitment open house. Numerous students and professionals visited KSP’s campus to learn about opportunities in a career as a state trooper.
Cars lined the shoulder of Coffee Tree Road near the entrance to KSP’s training camp, and school buses idled along the main road that leads to a large bronze sculpture of a trooper.
Capt. Michael Webber said that as the open house began at 10 a.m. about 250 people waited to see what KSP had to offer during the first open house of its kind. He said it was encouraging to see a wide array of potential troopers.
“We’ve had a good turnout,” Webber said. “Law enforcement recruitment nationally is down. So certainly KSP has had similar recruitment issues.”
KSP had exhibits demonstrating tools used by its Special Response Team like the SWAT equipment used during standoffs, technology from the Critical Incident Response team used during officer-involved shootings or mass fatality collisions, and K-9 units that detect narcotics and track criminals.
“The dogs draw a lot of attention,” Webber said. “But the technology, like the drones and crash reconstruction equipment, generate a lot of interest too.”
Steven Murphy, a Frankfort High School freshman, said he enjoyed seeing the equipment that troopers use at the academy, like the helicopter that he climbed into with other students. While Murphy does not have a desire to go directly into law enforcement, he does want to be an aviation mechanic, so he could work on similar devices for officers in the future.
“I think it’s interesting to see what they use,” Murphy said.
Webber said the goal is to show people that there is more to a career at KSP than traffic stops. He said there are limited opportunities in local police departments because of their size and inflexibility among the ranks.
“At KSP, you get a career in law enforcement that is unparalleled,” Webber said. “You get trained in areas that are not taught anywhere else in the state. And that’s a fact.”
Webber said recruitment efforts from last year only generated about 90 applications. He declined to say what the shortage in KSP officers looks like on a local level. However, KSP Commissioner Rick Sanders has said more than 1,100 troopers are needed to make sure the state is well covered. Webber said the hope is to get at least 100 viable applicants to proceed when the 98th cadet training class starts in May.
The deadline for applications in Sept. 13. See the KSP website for further information.