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Kentucky Enhances Public Safety by Recruiting Military Heroes as Law Enforcement Officers

New program provides pay and benefits to military heroes while receiving law enforcement training

RICHMOND, Ky. (June 23, 2022) – Today, Gov. Andy Beshear announced the state is making another historic investments in law enforcement, positioning the commonwealth as a leader in public safety, by launching a new program that makes it easier for local law enforcement agencies to hire military heroes.    

The Military to Law Enforcement Program (M-2-LE) allows local law enforcement agencies in Kentucky to hire active service members within all branches of the U.S. Military during their last 180 days of service. Upon being contracted by a law enforcement agency, the military member will continue to receive their pay and benefits from the U.S. Military while they undergo law enforcement training at the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT).

The Governor stated that his administration's top priority is to protect our Kentucky families and communities, which is why we must boldly invest in our law enforcement. “Across the nation, law enforcement agencies are struggling to hire and retain officers. I commend our state agencies for working together to create an attractive incentive for both our service members and police agencies focused on improving public safety throughout the commonwealth's 120 diverse counties."

The Kentucky Law Enforcement Council (KLEC), Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs (KCMA) and Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs (KDVA) partnered together to create (M-2-LE) to help our military heroes transition successfully into civilian life. Additionally, for each service member who gains a law enforcement position in Kentucky, the local agencies are saving as much as six months of salary through this program and receiving a fully certified peace officer to serve and protect the commonwealth immediately upon their honorable separation from our armed forces.

Kentucky is the first state to utilize the Department of Defense's SkillBridge program statewide to establish cooperative agreements between Kentucky's law enforcement agencies and all branches of the U.S. Military, with a focus of transitioning service members into licensed and skilled civilian occupations, including law enforcement. Kentucky is the only state to be using a state agency to act as the facilitator of marketing, support staff, accountability and offer the program to all law enforcement agencies in the state. Instead of individual agencies having to learn about SkillBridge, become accepted as a partner and list any hiring opportunities on the SkillBridge website, KLEC is actively seeking police departments and sheriff's offices to join the M2LE program and then directly assisting with the application process, which is bringing more agencies onboard quicker and offering more hiring opportunities for veterans.

KLEC said another unique aspect about the program is Kentucky requires the hiring law enforcement agency to pay a minimum hourly salary and the veteran has to commit to a minimum of three years with the agency.

“Our first goal in designing the M-2-LE program was to create an effective and efficient means to recruit and train military personnel interested in starting a law enforcement career in Kentucky," said KLEC Chairman and Police Chief Spike Jones. “The second goal was to incentivize the program by offering financial and expedited hiring benefits for law enforcement and support agencies who choose to hire veterans. We are proud to say we accomplished both. The program provides significant cost savings to law enforcement agencies as the military has agreed to continue paying the service member's salary and other benefits while attending a basic training academy."

KDVA Commissioner Lt. Col. Whitney Allen, USA Retired, said the program is a win-win for state law enforcement agencies, our veterans and the Commonwealth of Kentucky. “The M-2-LE program is a great opportunity to recruit veteran talent to work and live in Kentucky. It also allows our veterans a chance to continue honorable service in our communities. I look forward in seeing the implementation of more SkillBridge programs like, M-2-LE, which will benefit our veterans and the commonwealth."

“We applaud KLEC for creating this program to attract transitioning servicemembers and their families to Kentucky while helping police departments across the commonwealth fill vacancies and save taxpayer dollars," said Kentucky Commission on Military Affairs Executive Director Brigadier General Steve Bullard, USAF Retired. “Special thanks are due to the Fort Campbell Transition Assistance Program, KLEC Executive Director John Moberly, the Frankfort Police Department and KCMA Grant Program Director Dr. Dallas Kratzer for their work in shepherding this program to fruition and proving this concept for capitalizing on military experience works."

In April 2022, Frankfort Police Department officer Anthony Catania – a seven-year U.S. Army veteran – graduated from DOCJT's Basic Training Class 525 as the first recruit to benefit from M-2-LE. 

Catania, who served as a dog handler in the Army, said the program took a lot of anxiety off his shoulders when he first decided to separate from the military. “It took a lot of stress off myself and my wife because I did not have to worry about whether I had a job lined up once I got out of the Army," he explained. “I could go straight into what I wanted to do and not have to worry about a transition period."

Law enforcement agencies interested in becoming approved as an authorized SkillBridge organization should contact KLEC. Once approved, agencies can advertise vacancies on the SkillBridge website for all service members to access. 

If an agency hires a service member applicant, they will receive preferential access to an upcoming DOCJT basic training academy class.

Under the terms of the SkillBridge program, the applicant is required to agree to a three-year commitment with the agency following graduation from the academy, as allowed by KRS 70.290.

The Kentucky Workforce Innovation Board has recognized the advantages of this SkillBridge program and are developing initiatives to help all Kentucky employees to see how they can fill their vacancies and capitalize on tax incentives for employing displaced workers by hiring transitioning servicemembers and their spouses. 

Beshear-Coleman Administration's Commitment to Enhancing Public Safety throughout the Commonwealth

Since taking office, Gov. Beshear has awarded almost $8 million in grant funding to assist state and local law enforcement agencies to purchase the tools and resources that will not only allow them to protect our communities, but will ensure their own safety as they stand on the front lines every day.

The recently passed state budget enacted by the Governor increases the annual training stipend for sworn officers across the state by $300 — raising the annual training incentive from $4,000 to $4,300 upon completion of 40 hours of certified law enforcement training. This increase will support more than 7,600 officers annually, ensuring Kentucky's law enforcement are both safe and effective while making our communities safer.

In addition to the annual training stipend increase, Gov. Beshear signed House Bill 137, which expanded the definition of police to include joint task force members, county attorney detectives, process servers for juvenile courts, local alcoholic beverage control investigators and commonwealth attorney's detectives. By including these positions within the definition of police officer, their employing agencies are now able to participate in the Kentucky Law Enforcement Foundation Program Fund.

In April, the Governor signed into law two pieces of legislation recently passed by the General Assembly to make historic investments in law enforcement by providing funds to KSP to recruit, train and retain the essential workforce needed to continue to provide the highest level of security to all Kentuckians. House Bill 259 ensures that all troopers will receive a $15,000 raise. Additionally, KSP's starting pay for sworn officers will increase from $40,000 to $55,000 annually. This bill also includes a unique contribution enhancement for members of the State Police Retirement System Tier III plan, which will have an immediate impact on veteran troopers, the 71 recent graduates of the KSP Training Academy and new recruits who are preparing to report for training in June. Lastly, it establishes enhanced promotion pay for trooper and Commercial Vehicle Enforcement (CVE) officer supervisor ranks.

By signing Senate Bill 209, Gov. Beshear established paid vacation, sick leave and holiday pay, as well as enhanced health insurance contribution payments for retired KSP troopers and CVE officers.

Also, as the Governor recommended in January 2022, $12.2 million was included in the state budget for KSP to purchase body cameras, which is the first time in the commonwealth's history that funding has been allocated for this much-needed expense.

Gov. Beshear has championed legislative action like Senate Bill 64 and House Bill 254, making it easier for law enforcement to conduct undercover stings and increase the chances of stopping a horrific crime against a child from being facilitated through the internet. These actions will also provide law enforcement officers with the authority to charge offenders with harsher crimes to keep them away from the public, preventing further interactions with Kentucky's most vulnerable population.