PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) -- Kentucky State Police have honored the last living member of the first ever KSP Cadet Class.
Class #1 graduated in 1948.
Chester Potter, 83, of Pikeville, was part of that first class.
“The training lasted about three weeks in Frankfort,” he recalls. “It ran from 8:00 Monday morning until about 9:00 Saturday evening. It was a busy time with instructors from the FBI and the Indiana State Police. Together they taught us enough to get our feet on the ground.”
Potter says he was assigned to the Pikeville Post, “But in those days, they’d send you wherever they needed you, so you always had to keep a bag packed."
He says a car wasn't issued to troopers at the time, instead they used pool cars. He says he even remembers renting a horse one time to get where he needed. “Often, once you got where you were going, you could just let the horse go and it would go back home on its own,” he chuckled.
Technology was also a little different in those days. "Since we had no radios at the time, we would have to call in by phone every so often,” he says. “Generally, we knew everyone in the area that had a phone we could use or we would find people to relay information back to the post.”
Tracking was Potter's specialty. "When someone had took to the mountains to hide out, they would call me in to track ’em down and bring ’em in,” he says.
And during his tracking, safety was a priority. “Sometimes I would track someone for a week through the mountains to get in the right position to take them without anyone being seriously injured. That was always my goal,” he said.
“The trick,” he continued, “was to pursue the person and make them believe they were going to get away. You don’t press them too hard. Wear them down. Just keep on pressing him until he runs out of food or energy and gives up without a shootout.”
Overall, Potter says he had many nice experiences as a state trooper and some that weren’t so nice. “I remember one instance where I was slipping around a house trying to locate a murder suspect and I must have gotten tired or careless because the first thing I knew I was looking down the barrel of a double barreled shotgun. The guy had a real mean look in his eyes and was kind of grinning. He said, ‘You know I’ve always wanted to know how a person feels when they are about to die. Can you tell me?’ I said if you’re talking to me, I don’t feel too good.”
Potter retired in 1975 as a lieutenant after 27 years on the force.
Overall, it was an interesting career,” Potter notes. Although he hadn’t planned on a law enforcement career, the more he became involved, the more he saw the need for change.
“I had the privilege of working with some very fine people,” he recalls. “It was the type of work you get some comfort from. You had the opportunity to improve things a little bit and that’s what makes the world go around,” he says. “The most important thing that I have ever done was giving someone else a helping hand.”
“What I see and hear about the state police today is a comfort to know that it’s going in the right direction,” he says. “It’s come a long way and when I think about some of it ― and all the knots and gashes in my head — I have to grin and smile a little bit.”
KSP Commissioner Rodney Brewer recently awarded Potter with a certificate naming him Colonel, Aide de Camp to the Commissioner's staff.