Chief: Three applied for job

Town council hears concerns for department

BROWNSTOWN

The unexpected retirement of a veteran officer has forced Brownstown’s police chief to bump up the hiring process.

Chief Tom Hanner recently announced Steve Scarlett submitted his retirement letter May 9 after 19 years of service. His last day on the job was Tuesday.

During an early April town council meeting, Hanner received approval to hire a seventh police officer to help with coverage and alleviate issues with overtime and vacation hours. Implementing a 72-hour biweekly work schedule also was approved. Both changes were going to become effective Jan. 1.

With Scarlett’s departure and the possible need for a school resource officer in August, however, Hanner recently asked the council about putting a new officer in place sooner. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Wednesday.

Despite posting the job opening on law enforcement websites and the department’s Facebook page, Hanner said he has only received three applications, and none of them have attended the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy.

In his 16 years of working in law enforcement in Jackson County, Hanner said that’s the least amount of applicants he has seen, and it’s the first time none of them have been through the academy.

“We advertised harder than we ever have,” he said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult to have a hiring process if only three applicants are involved.”

Hanner attributes several factors to the low number of applicants.

One has to do with a Brownstown probationary officer’s starting wage. Currently, they earn $18.25 per hour, and after the first year of probation, they earn $38,480 per year.

Hanner said in his 12 years with the department, the hourly rate has only increased eight cents.

In talking to Seymour Police Chief Bill Abbott, Hanner said he learned a new patrolman with no experience in that city starts out making more than $49,000 per year. Hanner said Brownstown has a 25-year officer who makes less than that.

The Seymour Police Department also had more than 50 applicants for a recent hiring process.

“When I came here, the recruitment to try to get other officers to come to this department, things were competitive when it came to other municipalities, like Seymour,” Hanner said.

“If we’re looking to start a patrolman and if we’re wanting to recruit someone to come to this department to do this line of work and we’re only going to pay them $37,000-something to start out, it’s going to be hard getting individuals to come here, let alone to stay here,” he said.

Hanner said in the past, he has talked to the council about doing something to help retain and attract officers to the department. Getting pensions established in recent years was a big step, and he said it’s now time to look at the pay rates.

Hanner said he and other officers have been looking into other employment options because of the pay. He said he has to pay $750 to $1,000 per month in medical insurance, and that makes it tough with the money he’s currently making.

“When I came here, I wasn’t married and did not have children,” he said. “Almost 12 years later, I have to provide for my family (wife and two children). I expect there to be more vacancies if we don’t do something.”

Council President Sally Lawson said she would love to get the officers to where they are compensated well and have good benefits, but the money has to come from somewhere.

Hanner recommended setting up a time to meet with the council members to look at his budget and see where money can be pulled from to be able to increase the officers’ pay.

He also said he would like to see the salary ordinance changed to include incentives for different ranks within the department, which would be a recruiting tool for hiring in the future.

Lawson told Hanner he could begin the hiring process with the applications he receives by the deadline if he feels they would be a good fit for the department. Then he could bring the recommendation before the council.

Hanner said another reason for the low number of applicants has to do with the department’s facility. It currently is in the same building as the town hall and street department. That facility is more than 75 years old, isn’t energy-efficient and does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In the past, committees were formed to look into building a new complex.

“As a morale, a lot of officers are looking at, ‘What’s my future? What kind of facility will I be working at?'” Hanner said. “It has been 10 years since talks of building a facility (started), and we’re back to zero again. Members of those committees are gone. Now, we’re back to where I’m coming to the council again.”

At a glance

The Brownstown Police Department is accepting applications for the position of full-time police officer.

Applicants must be 21 and not older than 36 at the time of appointment, per PERF 1977; be a high school or GED graduate; possess a valid Indiana driver’s license at the time of appointment; and be able to pass written, physical and background tests.

Applicants must not have a felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction of domestic violence.

After the first year of probation, officers will earn $38,480 per year. There will be uniform allowance, a take-home vehicle and off-duty usage of a take-home vehicle within Jackson County.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, officers will be scheduled for a 72-hour biweekly schedule.

Applications may be picked up at Brownstown Town Hall, 200 W. Walnut St. Applications must be returned no later than 4 p.m. Wednesday. Any that are late, incomplete or have illegible email addresses will not be considered.

All notifications related to this hiring process will be conducted via email, so applicants must maintain an active email account.

Information: Cpl. Joe Kelly at jkelly@brownstownpd.org

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.