Nicholasville Police Department takes on an expanding city
For a Nicholasville police officer, the day begins with roll call.
“We are averaging 40 to 50 calls on second shift,” said Nicholasville Police Chief Todd Justice. “Thirty-five thousand (calls) for the year and it is going to steadily increase as the population increases. So, there is a lot of stuff going on.”
Officers use roll call to get their shift activities, papers for court and zone assignments.
The City of Nicholasville is divided into two sectors. Sector one is everything north of Maple Street. Sector two is all areas of the city south of Maple Street.
“Then you get out to patrolling and you are answering calls,” Justice said.
Nicholasville Police Department runs with a minimum of five officers on shift. First shift runs from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., second shift is 2 to 10 p.m. and third shift has officers on staff from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Shifts change yearly and depend on seniority and extra learning the officers have completed.
“Usually, second shift is out the door and they have calls waiting,” Justice said. “Sector one guys are the ones covering Brannon. Eventually we would like to staff all three sectors. We just can’t. We don’t have the manpower.”
Nicholasville Police Officer Kevin Grimes agrees with Justice, saying running straight out the door to answer calls is a daily occurrence for officers.
“That is literally every day they walk in the door,” Grimes said. “Some of them don’t even get to roll call. They are on their way in and a call is in the area and they have to respond. We just don’t have the people.”
The hiring process to become a part of the NPD takes about four months. Applicants must take a written test and physical before they will be accepted for an interview. After an interview, applicants are given further testing which includes psychological, polygraph, drug and medical tests and background checks. Then, new recruits are sent to the academy when they have spots available.
Pay for the Nicholasville Police Department starts at $15.54 an hour while new recruits are attending the police academy. After the academy, wages are increased to $16.32 an hour.
It takes almost a year and a half to hire and train a new police officer. Officers spend six weeks in training, 20 weeks in the academy and 15 weeks with a field training officer before they are able to be in the field alone.
Dispatch is responsible for giving the Nicholasville Police Department quarterly updates depicting what times of the day are the busiest. The department then works to put the correct manpower on each shift according to those records.
“We try to handle everything here,” Justice said. “The only thing that we don’t handle is bombs. But we do everything else. We handle it and we can do it. We have the capability and the training and all of that.”
But work for the NPD does not stop there. The department is also a part of a Backups Program in Kentucky, which employs 11 Nicholasville officers at University of Kentucky football games.
“For the past three seasons (we have been called) to work their football games as additional security,” Grimes said. “We do whatever they want us to do.”
Although NPD jurisdiction in Lexington is only linked to UK football games, there are many other counties across central Kentucky where the Backup Program gives them the ability to do their job with no hangups.
“We were one of the original agencies,” Justice said. “(The program is available in) lots of central Kentucky and it is starting to head west and up north a little bit. It allows us to do our job. Our criminals don’t stop at the county lines. They work a case just like they were here in the city. If you need to make an arrest, you make an arrest. You take them to their jail or you can drive them back here. In years past, we had to always coordinate with people. So if we went somewhere and arrested somebody, we had to have them come back, place them under arrest and take them back to our county or we would have to get a warrant. With Backups, we don’t have to do that. We can do all of it there.”
Justice and Grimes agree one major issue the agency faces is the growth and expansion in Nicholasville.
“Our problem is the city is expanding,” Justice said. “The call volume is expanding, and we aren’t expanding. We can’t get people because they don’t want to do this job anymore. We are not paid that well. We are low compared to other agencies around us. We can’t fill up the spots.
“We are not a small town anymore and we need to stop thinking like that. We need to get ahead of this because it is only going to make it worse as more time goes.”