Beshear’s Cop City: A Beacon of Law Enforcement or a Missed Opportunity for Kentucky?

RICHMOND, Ky. — Governor Andy Beshear broke ground Monday of a new law enforcement training facility in Richmond, Kentucky. The facility, named in honor of the late Jody Cash, an officer who lost his life in the line of duty, is part of a broader trend of Gov. Beshear’s investments in law enforcement.

The Jody Cash Multipurpose Training Facility, set to be completed in 2025, will be a 42,794-square-foot facility with a 50-yard, 30-lane firing range designed for intensive and specialized training. The facility will support training for all of Kentucky’s law enforcement agencies, with the exception of the Bowling Green, Lexington and Louisville Metro police departments and Kentucky State Police, which have their own independent academies.

A press release from the governor’s office touted several of Beshear’s accomplishments pertaining to law enforcement in the Commonwealth:

  • Since taking office, Gov. Beshear has awarded almost $8 million in grant funding to assist state and local law enforcement agencies.
  • In September 2022, the administration announced nearly $2 million in grant funding to enhance public safety, curb the sale of illegal drugs and fight addiction.
  • In July 2022, the Governor also announced additional steps to enhance public and officer safety, including a Western Kentucky training site feasibility study and an increased training stipend for law enforcement officers.
  • In June 2022, Gov. Beshear announced the Military to Law Enforcement Program (M-2-LE). M-2-LE allows local law enforcement agencies in Kentucky to hire active service members within all U.S. military branches during their last 180 days of service

However, this focus on traditional policing methods raises questions when compared to similar situations in other states. In Atlanta, Georgia, a proposal to build a “Cop City” – a massive police training facility – was met with significant resistance from the community. Activists argue that the funds could be better used to address root causes of crime such as poverty, lack of education, and inadequate mental health services. Climate concerns were also raised, as the facilities will impact the nearby forest.

Kentucky’s own challenges in these areas are worth noting. According to the 2023 Best State Rankings from U.S. News & World Reports, Kentucky ranked No. 39 overall, with particularly low rankings in health care (No. 46), education (No. 32), and economy (No. 43). These rankings suggest areas where Kentucky is facing significant challenges and where investment could potentially have a significant impact.

Investing in education could help to break the cycle of poverty and crime, while improving health care could lead to healthier communities and a more productive workforce. Likewise, investing in the economy could create jobs and stimulate growth, leading to a higher standard of living for all Kentuckians, advocates argue.

The establishment of the Jody Cash Multipurpose Training Facility is a testament to the state’s commitment to law enforcement training. However, the state’s rankings in health care, education, and economy highlight the need for a balanced approach to resource allocation. As Kentucky moves forward, these are factors that will undoubtedly continue to shape the conversation around public safety and community investment.

Photo: Andy Beshear delivers remarks at the Kentucky State Police 75th Anniversary celebration on June 19. (YouTube screenshot)