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“On my first night with my (field training officer), our cruiser was stolen,” said Lee, who lives in White Mills. “This was in the mountains in Lawrence County. We confiscated an elderly man and woman’s converted bread van that went to the flea markets full of glass and pursued (the) cruiser. It got crashed and shot all to pieces.
“It scared me to death because I thought, ‘This is it. I’ve been a trooper one night.’”
Lee, 57, retires at the end of the month as an assistant commander at Post 4 and lieutenant of operations after 31 years of service to the state police.
On Friday, more than 90 attended a lunch at Stone Hearth Restaurant in Elizabethtown to honor Lee, including KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer.
“He will be sorely missed,” Brewer said. “That’s a lot of institutional knowledge that is not easily replaced.”
According to Brewer, it is rare today to see a trooper remain with KSP for 30 or more years. He estimates less than 5 percent of troopers reach that length of service.
A Grayson County native, Lee began his law enforcement career in 1974 as a military policeman in the U.S. Air Force, according to KSP. After more than two years with the Leitchfield Police Department, he entered the state police as a cadet in October 1982.
After serving eight months as a trooper in Ashland, he relocated to Post 4 in Elizabethtown, where he was promoted to sergeant in November 1989 and to lieutenant in January 2003, according to KSP. For five months in 2007, he served as acting commander of Post 2 in Madisonville.
“David Lee is the picture of Kentucky State Police,” said Capt. John Ward, commander at Post 4. “When you think of David Lee, you think of state police.”
Ward said the crowd of law enforcement, friends and family gathered Friday at Stone Hearth to recognize Lee’s service is a “testament to the man.”
“We’re like brothers more than co-workers,” Ward said about Lee.
Trooper Norman Chaffins, the Elizabethtown post’s spokesman, said Lee mentored a lot of young troopers at the post over the years. Lee was a “father figure” to many, he said.
“When I first came on as a trooper, he was my supervisor,” said Chaffins, who also retires at the end of the month. “When I went through something tragic, he was the first through the door to offer me support.”
Upon retirement, Lee said he plans to “take it all in for a little while” and work on his farm in White Mills. A return to law enforcement in the future is a “possibility,” he said.
“(Police work is) hard to walk away from,” he said.
Leaving state police is difficult for him to talk about, he said. His son, Seth, also is a trooper at Post 4, and Lee said it will be hard to leave behind the men and women at the Elizabethtown post.
“We’ve got a difficult job,” he said. “It’s hard, but nobody has more fun. To me, it’s as much a social venue, the people and everything. That’s what the difficult thing is.”
Sarah Bennett can be reached at (270) 505-1750 or email@example.com.