Two longest-serving state troopers ever still on the job after 40 years

LONDON — When Colan Harrell and Bill Riley started training as Kentucky State Police troopers 40 years ago, serious drug crimes were rare in rural Kentucky and there were no protective screens between officers in the front of cruisers and offenders riding in the back seat.

Much has changed in those four decades, but Harrell and Riley are still on the job, making them the longest-serving officers in the history of the agency.

Capt Lisa Rudzinski, commander of the London KSP post, led a ceremony honoring the two Monday at the post. She praised their dedication, strong work ethic, loyalty and service.

"Detective Riley and Detective Harrell truly embody everything that is the Kentucky State Police," Rudzinski said. "They're role models for what a trooper should be."

Rudzinski said she thinks it's unlikely anyone will ever serve longer than Riley and Harrell, both 63. Views on careers have changed, and benefits make it more lucrative for officers to retire at some point than to keep working.

In fact, Harrell and Riley could make more money by retiring, Rudzinski said.

But both officers said their decision to stay on the job wasn't motivated by money, but rather by a love of what they do.

If he'd been after money, Riley said, he wouldn't have signed on for $457 a month the year of the first moon landing.

"It's never been about the money. It's the satisfaction of being able to do the job," he said.

Riley is a vehicle-theft investigator who has been honored nationally for his work. Harrell, also a decorated officer, has long been assigned to investigate crimes in Whitley County.

Both have been involved in memorable cases and incidents. Riley said he was the first state police officer on the scene of the 1976 Scotia coal-mine blast in Letcher County that killed 15 men. In another case, he approached a mobile home, unarmed, where a fugitive charged with shooting a wildlife officer was holed up, and got him to surrender.

Harrell was the detective on a case in which a Corbin woman left her cocaine where her 3-year-old grandson could get it while she was out of the room. The boy ate the drug and died of a massive overdose.

Harrell estimated he has investigated at least 125 murders through the years, including a grisly case in which a 15-year-old boy allegedly stabbed an elderly woman more than 30 times and set her house on fire.

Crime has changed since the two were sworn in. One key difference is that trafficking and abuse of drugs such as cocaine, prescription pills and methamphetamine have become far more common, and play a role in other crimes.

"The drugs should be the No. 1 thing on people's minds," Harrell said.

Harrell is eyeing retirement after this year, but Riley isn't ready just yet.

"If I could . . . I'd do another 40 starting tomorrow," he said.