By TAMMIE HETZER-WOMACK
For The Independent
This afternoon interview with Sam Little is a (little) delayed.
Forever witty, he pops through the back door of Kentucky State Police Post 14, and begs forgiveness for his unforeseen holdup. He returns from a quick trip to Lawrence County’s outer reaches. He didn’t want a trooper brother responding alone to a domestic violence call. On his way back to town Little hunted for a missing man.
Such frenzied standard of living would prove too much for most of us. But not him.
It’s his second run of it. After 2009 retirement, he missed being a state trooper, working complaints and calming unsettled folks. Post Commander Capt. James Stephens and Operations Lt. J.W. Gibson asked Little to mull over likelihood of returning as a road unit through the “Trooper R” program, which permits retirees of less than five years to come back. Troopers are contracted annually for up to five additional years of service.
He jumped at the opportunity and returned in late December.
Not much changed since Little’s past police departure. He investigates car crashes; is ordinarily swamped probing criminal cases, stomachs the worst, and sorts out treacherous complaints in Boyd and Lawrence counties on day and nightshifts. Like fellow troopers, he’s scheduled to work 10 hours a day, on four weekdays — yet his time-card surpasses that, usually during a full moon.
In winter, Little completed recertification courses, trained on mobile data terminals — laptops in state police cruisers — and “basically hit the road,” chuckled the 45-year-old husband and father.
“The job itself hasn’t changed all that much since I last worked the road in 2003; only the way we report things now. There’s a lot less paper with computers and printers in cruisers. You issue your citations, work your crashes, and do your criminal case investigations on the computer. It’s basically one-stop shop.”
He remembers delivering supplemental reports and citations to the Ashland barracks on his day off — foreign to a younger generation of troopers he guides and mentors like a dad.
“It would be culture shock to them just as much as learning the new technological way was for me,” Little said. “One thing that hasn’t changed? Troopers still deal with the people and resolve their problems directly.”
The veteran joined the KSP in 1990 after completing his bachelor’s degree in police administration from Eastern Kentucky University and serving the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve as a military police officer. From early on, the former Ashland Tomcat hoped to be a trooper. After Academy graduation, Little came home to Ashland where he patrolled the highways and worked as an accident reconstructionist and public affairs officer till 2003, when he transferred to Frankfort to perform Governor’s Security detail for Governors Ernie Fletcher, Steve Beshear, their first ladies, and kin.
Quickly proving dedication and attention to greatness, by summer of 2006, Little was promoted to assistant commander and scheduler over Governor travel — arranging troopers to guard Commonwealth leaders during travel, while also planning aircraft and helicopter itineraries for state, national and overseas journeys.
“This was probably my most challenging KSP job — staying on top of daily travel. The constant schedule changes that occurred from the Capitol — sometimes even hourly — made for a tiring and stressful day,” said Little, adding the hardest part of the job was family separation. He was out of town usually five days a week for six years.
“There were several of us who didn’t get to go home each night because we just lived too far away. You miss out on a lot of little things your child is doing in school, such as ballgames, school programs, and the like. You just have to keep your eye on the ball and know you’re doing it for them as well as the benefit and payoff down the road when you retire.”
From hordes of calls to service, and masses of dangerous encounters, jLittle possesses a distinct calming air, “like pouring water on a fire,” quieting-down anger from the moment he’s on scene, touted Gibson.
Little heartens young troopers; encourages them to give all.
“KSP has many avenues you take in your career; but, no matter what you do, where you go, or the position you hold in this organization, the backbone is always where the rubber meets the road, the road trooper — the guy working a wreck in the pouring rain or snow, answering a call for service or help, all hours of day and night, getting called out, leaving his family to come help yours. It’s what this agency built its foundation on.
“I don’t care how far technology advances KSP; troopers are our best public relations tool. They’re the ones meeting people face-to-face on a daily basis, whether they need help or assistance, or just stopping to talk while you’re getting a bite to eat somewhere.
“Older troopers who came along years ago, even way before me, are the ones who established KSP’s reputation. We should strive to maintain it and build upon the toughness and integrity they established for this organization.”