The Kentucky State Police trooper who was reassigned after attending the Jan. 6 Trump rally in Washington, D.C., was the agency’s top recruiter.
Capt. Michael Webb was reassigned on Jan. 8 from his position in the recruitment branch to the Inspections and Evaluations Branch, his personnel file shows.
A week after the rally, KSP issued a statement saying one trooper, who was not named, had been temporarily reassigned after attending on personal time with his family. When asked about Capt. Michael Webb’s assignment status, an agency spokesperson pointed back to that statement.
“KSP is reviewing the employee’s participation. It is the right thing to do to protect our nation, democracy, agency and all KSP employees,” said acting KSP commissioner Phillip Burnett Jr. in the statement. “This is the same review process our agency follows any time there is questionable activity involving any law enforcement personnel within our agency.”
Several people with ties to the agency who declined to be named confirmed Webb was reassigned for his attendance at the rally.
KSP’s statement said the trooper attended the rally but did not enter the U.S. Capitol, where rioters stormed the building while a joint session of Congress met to certify the election of President Joe Biden. Five people died, including a woman shot and killed by Capitol police and a Capitol police officer beaten by the mob. Documents and lecterns were stolen and dozens have been charged, including at least nine from Kentucky. Former President Donald Trump was impeached, for a second time, over his role in inciting the riot.
Webb has been with KSP since 2004, with an 8-month leave in 2006. He became recruit commander in September 2018, a position he held until two days after the rally at the U.S. Capitol.
Before becoming the agency’s top recruiter, Webb was public affairs commander. He also spent four months as a senior trooper with the Academy Branch in 2013, the same year the agency used training materials that quoted Adolf Hitler and encouraged troopers to think like “ruthless killers.”
Webb couldn’t be reached for comment.
Webb’s wife, Cara Beth Webb, posted a photo on Facebook of herself and her daughter at the rally in a red Keep America Great hat. Her post described the rally as a peaceful, diverse event and didn’t mention her husband.
She distanced herself from the rioters who broke into the Capitol, including Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by Capitol police.
“I will add that I am sorry to hear of a woman passing, a fellow american fighting for her cause,” Webb wrote. “I don’t have to agree with the way she went about her protest to be saddened for her family.”
Kentucky State Police Under Scrutiny
The Associated Press reported in January that at least 31 officers in 12 states are under investigation for their participation in the events at the Capitol on January 6.
Brian Higgins, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and former police chief of Bergen County, New Jersey, said law enforcement agencies are grappling with how to proceed.
He said officers have a right to participate in the political process, but any actions an officer takes, even off-duty, reflects on the agency.
“Law enforcement has really been under the microscope,” he said. “So if there was ever a time for a police officer to be cautious in his or her actions, now’s the time, because everybody’s watching.”
That’s particularly true for the Kentucky State Police, which has been under fire recently amid revelations about the agency’s training program dating back to 2013. KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer resigned after the controversial training materials were first reported by Manual RedEye.
Vida Johnson, a professor at Georgetown Law School and expert on white supremacy in policing, said it would be a mistake for law enforcement agencies to dismiss the rally at the Capitol as routine political activism. Even before the rally turned violent, she said, the goal was to challenge the validity of legally cast ballots and stop Congress from certifying the election. Many attendees wore white supremacist or Nazi regalia and carried Confederate flags.
Attendance at such an event raises questions about any law enforcement officer, she said, and that goes double for an officer in charge of recruitment.
“Who is going to be attracted to him? And who is he going to be attracted to?” Johnson said.
In response to a December story about the startling gender gaps at KSP, Gregory, the KSP spokesperson, told KyCIR that the agency had been making efforts to diversify its recruitment efforts. KyCIR found that male troopers outnumbered women nearly 46 to 1, a gap that has only grown over the last decade.
KSP launched the “Be The Difference” campaign focused on highlighting the contributions of female troopers and troopers of color. The agency hosted roundtable discussions with minority troopers and virtual meetings with potential candidates to help increase diversity recruitment efforts, Gregory said.
In January, KSP swore in its 100th cadet class. The 45 new troopers in the virtual swearing-in ceremony were overwhelmingly — if not exclusively — white and male.
Contact Eleanor Klibanoff at firstname.lastname@example.org.