Kansas rep introduces bill to move KHP under Attorney General's office to help with recruitment
WICHITA, Kan. (KAKE) - The Kansas Highway Patrol, like most law enforcement agencies, is struggling to fill openings.
State lawmakers disagree about some of the reasons behind the issue, and now a new bill could change who the department reports to.
Some Republican legislators say the department isn't able to recruit or retain officers because of the department's leadership and so they are trying to change it.
"I'm sure you all are aware of the shortage in our law enforcement and that's just not with the Kansas Highway Patrol," Capt. Mitch Clark of the Kansas Highway Patrol. "There's this is a national crisis that we are all facing."
Clark told state lawmakers about the struggles the department is facing when it comes to recruiting and keeping troopers.
Right now the KHP says it is down 52 officers from the max it is funded for and has had only 15 graduates in 2022. KHP received a pay raise in 2022 that Clark says should help with recruiting for upcoming classes. However, he says the highway patrol isn't alone.
"We are all fishing out of the same pond that's dry, that's drying up."
Clark blames low pay and other issues for the shortage of recruits, but state leaders think it's something else: leadership. While pay and other issues are what Clark cited for the shortage of recruits.
"Don't buy that it is just a labor shortage issue," said Representative Stephen Owens. "I think the writing is clearly on the wall."
Republicans aren't happy with how the department has been run under its current superintendent, Herman Jones, since he was appointed in 2019 by Governor Laura Kelly.
That's why Representative Steven Owens has introduced a bill that would move the KHP from under the governor to the attorney general.
"It is quite obvious that there needs to be a leadership change there," Owens said.
After today's presentation, senators on the transportation committee say they are mixed on that move.
"Something that might want to be explored, but we'd have to look into that a lot deeper before we made a major move like that," Representative Mike Peterson said.
"I just haven't seen any evidence that moving the Highway Patrol, under the Attorney General's office would help with any of the recruitment and retention challenges that we heard about today," said Representative Ethan Corson.
Owens says that there should be hearings on his bill over the next few weeks.