Newest officer resigns: Police chief to wait on hiring replacement

BROWNSTOWN

A new officer was hired about a month ago to serve with the Brownstown Police Department.

He was in the process of training with fellow officers and getting set for a uniform and equipment and planned on attending the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy in October.

But he recently told Chief Tom Hanner the job wasn’t for him and he had taken a job elsewhere.

The officer was scheduled to work part time through December and then would have switched to full time at the start of 2018.

Hanner said he doesn’t know what type of job the man accepted. Town council President Sally Lawson said she’s curious if he left because of the current hours or pay rate.

In April, the council approved for Hanner to hire a seventh police officer to help with coverage and alleviate issues with overtime and vacation hours. The council also approved implementing a 72-hour biweekly work schedule. Both changes were going to become effective Jan. 1.

The retirement of 19-year officer Steve Scarlett and the need for a school resource officer starting this month, however, resulted in Hanner searching for an officer sooner than expected.

Only three people applied for the position. Blake McCrary moved from reserve to full-time officer to fill Scarlett’s vacancy. With the resignation of the new hire, Hanner is now down to one candidate.

“I just do not want to call this other guy back in and try to offer him a job if I cannot know what the foreseeable future is,” Hanner said. “When I sit down with somebody, one of the things they want to know is ‘What is my future here? What am I looking at? Why do you want me to come to this department?’”

Hanner said he’s holding off hiring an officer, and he’s not sure if the 72-hour schedule will even be able to go into effect next year.

Once he finds out the department’s budget for 2018, he said he will be able to determine what to do in terms of hiring an officer. The budget information should be available by the council’s first meeting in September, Lawson said.

Brownstown students returned to school Tuesday. Officer John Reichenbacker will be spending most of his time as a school resource officer, and Hanner said other officers may help at the schools the first few weeks.

That means they wouldn’t have as much time to train a new officer. Forty hours of prebasic training is required before going to the academy.

“We’re going to be really busy with school starting. We don’t have time to 40-hour a guy right now,” Hanner said. “I’m not going to rush into hiring someone.”

Hanner said a probationary officer’s starting wage is one of the reasons for the low number of applicants. Currently, a new officer earns $18.25 per hour, and then he or she would be paid $38,480 per year after the first year of probation.

“I would be totally honest with you, I don’t look for us to retain anyone,” Hanner told the council. “If I were to tell you otherwise, I would be lying to you.”

Councilman Gary Drake asked how the department’s pay compares to similar-sized departments in the state. Hanner said in his research, he found it varied depending on the county’s tax base. Lawson said she thought they were similar in pay.

“Maybe a little below, but we’re getting there,” she said.

During a May council meeting, Hanner told the council in his 12 years with the department, the hourly rate has only increased eight cents. He also said the annual pay rate for a new officer makes it hard to attract people to work for the department and stay.

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.”

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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.