© 2024 WUKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

'Not the police department of yesteryear': Lexington officials talk public safety hiring challenges

Josh James

Top Lexington public safety officials gave lawmakers in Frankfort a snapshot of the challenges faced in hiring and retention Tuesday.

Police Chief Lawrence Weathers said his department is gradually recovering from the drop in recruits seen around the start of the pandemic and the racial justice protests. Just before those events, in 2019, the Lexington Police department saw 472 applicants. In 2023, that number was up to 873 applicants.

Weathers said, while salary is part of the picture, the department also needed to recognize that it’s “not the police department of yesteryear.”

"In the past couple years, policing has kind of been pigeonholed as 'this is what past policing is,' and that's our fault because we didn't get out there and tell them what policing is now," Weathers said. "We're doing that now and I think we're seeing some of the things that don't exactly match up to what our younger applicants are looking for, so we've changed some of that."

Other public safety officials spoke to the issue, including Director of Community Corrections Scott Colvin, who said corrections departments across the country hit historic lows in staffing in 2022, going “beyond critical.” He said the numbers are recovering but the problem isn’t solved. Colvin said it’s going to take a “bellwether” change to get the profession back on a solid footing.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.