All across the commonwealth, troopers young and old should be celebrating the State Police’s 73rd birthday on July 1.
Yes, it is the birthday of the Kentucky State Police, born July 1, 1948.
It should be referred to as a birthday rather than an anniversary, because the KSP is a living organization. It was founded by visionaries in 1948 like Gov. Earl C. Clements and the Kentucky General Assembly. Gov. Clements, a former Union County sheriff, foresaw the need for a statewide police agency not limited by jurisdictional constraints of county lines and uninhibited by partisan politics.
The road to establishing a heritage of reliable state police service began with Commissioner Guthrie Crowe.
Troopers have long set the standard for policing in Kentucky and have earned the respect of its citizens. Many communities rely on a “handful” of Troopers and their local police and sheriff to ensure public safety are maintained. This is amplified by the too numerous crimes investigated to name individually, but resonate in the memories of those who have been reassured by a State Trooper in the pursuit of justice.
Although small and thinly dispersed, KSP approaches its mission with the tenacity of a “bulldog” and can mobilize a contingency of Troopers to any part of the state to address a problem or crisis. Troopers can generally be characterized as “gung-ho!” Even though small in number, they produce tremendous results, with little fanfare. Being a Trooper is a “calling,” a way of life. The secret of their historical success is the transformation
that occurs in their Training Academy.
The strength of any organization is its people. The KSP puts great stock in its personnel, both sworn and civilian. They are trained to be troopers first. This is a methodical indoctrination and socialization process immersed in structure and discipline resembling “boot camp”, which is not replicated by any other police department or academy in Kentucky. It incorporates academics, technical expertise, and interpersonal skill development, together with discipline to produce Kentucky’s finest.
The transformation of a trooper breaks down barriers of gender, race and ethnicity. Recruits quickly learn their gender is trooper and their color is Gray. Col. Ted Bassett (1965) declared that the Kentucky State Trooper was the only thing standing between “the law and lawlessnes,” despite being “stretched so thin between Ashland and Paducah, thus coining the phrase, “The Thin Gray Line.”
Throughout the past 73 years, the KSP has become known as a bastion against the elements of evil and law breakers who prey on the weak and vulnerable. Troopers have been called to address many unpleasant tasks at the urging of local officials.
Labor disputes occurring in every decade up through to the 1980s saw Troopers holding the line to maintain peace and prevent property damage and loss of life. It was Troopers who dismantled the gambling and illicit nightclubs of Northern Kentucky in the late in the 1950s and again in the 1970s. During times of civil unrest, it was the
KSP who quelled the riots on college campuses during the Vietnam War. Duty called troopers to Jefferson County in the mid 1970s to aid the localgovernment in restoring peace and calm amidst forced busing in the
Jefferson County Schools.
Spectators were awed at how the first squads of troopers dispersed an angry gathering ten times greater in number. The call to Jefferson County was answered again on 2020 as protests and riots emerged in the wake of allegations of police injustices across America.
Troopers learn a creed composed by Lt. Tony Terry and others, to provide them perspective. Every recruit memorizes the creed and recites it at graduation. “I am what others did not want to be. I went where others feared to go; risk and danger is my constant companion. I have seen the face of terror, felt the sting of cold fear and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love. I have helped people in times of stress and subdued others in times of trouble. I have cried, loved, and hoped, but most of all, have honored my commitment to serve and protect for which I have paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of Service Above Self. I am a Kentucky state trooper”.
Complementing their creed, Troopers subscribe to a set of Values;
Trust: total confidence in the integrity, ability, and good character of other troopers.
Respect: Treat people as they should be treated. Objectivity: uninfluenced by emotions and personal prejudices. Obligation: upholding the proud tradition and image of the “Thin Gray Line.”
Perseverance: there is no substitute for hard work. Stay the course.
Excellence: the commitment to constantly strive to be your best.
Responsibility: the duty of each trooper to protect and serve the citizens of Kentucky.
To many citizens and visitors in Kentucky, the State Police are known only for their traffic duties, causing many to mistakenly believe all troopers do are issue traffic citations for exceeding the speed limit. However, citizens in rural Kentucky know first hand a state trooper’s duties are much broader. Daily, Troopers answer citizen calls for service for non-emergency needs such as stranded motorists to the more hazardous police task of resolving domestic disputes among families and assisting schools to provide safe learning environments. Traffic collisions, crimes against persons and property and the constant vigil to subdue the illegal drug market compete for time in the trooper’s day.
In addition to this, KSP offers many support services provided to local police and prosecutors in the form of computer crimes, forensic laboratory services, tactical and operational support. The state police is equally committed to outreach in a non-traditional police approach.
Many partnerships have been foraged with Area Development Districts and the Cooperative Extension Service to seek ways to improve the quality of life in Kentucky’s counties. Moreover, a special project was established in 1965 under the leadership of Colonel James E. “Ted” Bassett, Director of KSP — called Trooper Island. This
became a boy and girls’ camp situated in the middle of Dale Hollow Lake in South Central Kentucky where each year hundreds of children, age’s nine to 12, are recruited to attend camp and interact with Troopers to learn
skills for life, understand responsibility and safety and have fun.
It has been said the investment of tax dollars in the State Police produces the highest return and the most efficient in state government.
The citizens of Kentucky should be proud of their state police and its devoted women and men who serve in both sworn and civilian capacities. For those of us who have served and are now retired, we maintain fond memories and affection of a career in an organization rich in history and tradition recognizable in every community in the commonwealth.
Unfortunately, the KSP heritage has not come without a cost. We are constantly reminded of the troopers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. May all who come after them hold firm to the high standards they subscribed and render not their sacrifice as vain. We have been handed a great heritage!
Happy Birthday KSP.
Colonel Tim Hazlette,