When Leon Buchanan ended his professional basketball career, he had completed a lifelong dream. But the former Morehead State star had another dream, and it led to a new career with the Lexington Police Department.
Buchanan, who was the leading scorer for a Morehead State men’s basketball team that advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2009 for the first time in 25 years, is in his third week as a patrol officer for the police department.
A new 27-member recruitment class is two weeks into its 32-week training academy, and the police department is already looking ahead for its next class. Applications are due in July for the department’s 2020 recruitment class.
Becoming a police officer was a dream come true for Buchanan, he said. He fulfilled his first dream when he played professional basketball for two years in Germany and Sweden before he moved back to Kentucky upon the birth of his son.
Buchanan worked five years for Amazon in Lexington, leading to him applying to be a police officer. He called the police academy a challenge, but he embraced it.
“If you like a challenge physically, mentally and emotionally, you will be put in situations where you are going to have to make a decision and you have to make the right decision,” Buchanan said. “I look at it as a challenge. It was a challenge to me to rely on my training that I have received in order to apply that training and be able to make the right decision.”
Still young on the police force, Buchanan has aspirations to work in the training academy or recruiting officers.
“The important part is making sure you can have the right people here to work with, who will have your back on calls,” Buchanan said about the importance of finding the right men and women. “Making sure those are good people ... not only cut out for the job, but also having personable people because a lot of what you do out on patrol is talking to people and trying to find a solution for whatever situation arises at that time.”
There are 630 officers employed by the department, including the 27 who are currently in training. Attrition, retirements and the city’s budget will determine how many candidates the police department will hire for its next class.
Selected candidates will undergo a 32-week training period, which is the longest for any police department in the state.
Officer McKenzie Willoughby, the recruiting coordinator for the police department, said the department takes pride in training its officers so that when they leave the academy, they are prepared for challenges that may come.
“The big thing is we take a lot of pride in training our officers well not only in their skill set being in law enforcement but also in what the community has to offer and how we interact with our community members,” he said.
Following the application, candidates will go through a written test, physical fitness test and have an oral board interview. There are free prep courses for interested applicants at the Lexington Police Training Academy April 29 and May 31 at 6 p.m.
Willoughby, a former Lexington police detective who has been the recruiting coordinator for nearly two years, said characteristics he is looking for in officers are men and women with strong work ethics and high integrity who are willing to serve the community.
Potential recruits can apply at www.joinlexpolice.com. Applicants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 21 and 36, have a high school education, a valid driver’s license, can legally possess a firearm and not been convicted of a serious misdemeanor within 12 months of the application deadline. Applications will be accepted until July 2.