A few years have passed since the Brownstown Police Department has had an assistant police chief.
The previous town council didn’t feel there was a need for that position, so it was eliminated.
When Chief Tom Hanner had to take time off twice this year because of injuries, there was no official person in charge within the department.
That was cause for concern for the current town council, so the five members decided to reestablish the assistant police chief position.
During a recent council meeting, Joe Kelly was appointed to that role. He has been with the department for five years, having served as corporal the past couple of years.
One of three applicants for the position, Kelly said he applied “to try to get more rank and structure with the agency and help the chief with the path he wants to take the agency.”
Hanner said Kelly will help review policies, assist with training and be prepared to assume the role as chief when needed.
As corporal, Kelly has been overseeing training, the e-ticket program, vehicle purchasing and equipment.
In his previous job with the Indiana State Police Capitol Police Section, Kelly said he assumed several administrative roles, including overseeing scheduling, attendance and large events for 60-plus officers and serving as a shift supervisor of seven men.
“The experiences I gained from the state and the people I had above me that promoted me into administrative roles, that led me to where I am today,” he said. “My superiors taught me things I needed to know and helped me get to where I’m at today.”
While Kelly already has taken on his new rank, his yearly pay of $53,900 won’t take effect until Jan. 1. A new pay matrix for Hanner and the other officers will go into effect at the same time. Kelly currently has a base salary of $40,560.
Hanner said in recent years, he has had a sergeant and a corporal, but they didn’t receive pay incentives for those ranks.
The current town council worked with Hanner to change that.
“It gives us a chain of command, something that you have to have in law enforcement,” he said. “We’ve kind of just created one, but still yet, the positions that we had, we basically just had a chief, and that was it. They were assuming those roles without any pay incentives.”
Hanner said when he was appointed chief in 2012, the council had him appoint an assistant police chief. At some point, the council decided that position was no longer needed.
Since then, he has fulfilled administrative duties along with helping respond to calls and patrol.
“That’s just part of being a small agency,” he said. “Even though I’m chief … I still go out there and do the same things as everyone else, so we never had that in place what to do if the chief goes down. It happened twice this year.”
Earlier this year, the current council approached Hanner about creating rank and structure within the department. Since they appoint the police chief, Hanner asked that they also appoint the assistant police chief.
Hanner was asked to email his officers to submit a letter of intent if they were interested in the position, and the council would conduct interviews and make the selection.
“The council, they are the ones spearheading this. I’m excited about it. I think it’s great,” Hanner said. “It shows that we’re trying to advance into the future.”
While recently seeking applicants to fill open positions, Hanner didn’t receive as many applications as he had in the past. He said part of the reason had to do with the low pay and no rank incentives.
With the new pay matrix, he hopes that makes the department more competitive and helps attract and retain officers.
“This council has recognized if someone is going to have a rank, they are going to have to have a pay matrix that goes with that,” he said. “If not, how are you going to encourage new hires to come to this department not knowing whether they are ever going to be any advancement? It’s definitely a major step in the right direction for us.”
Hanner said having a good working relationship with the town council is important.
“I can’t say enough positive things about the council we currently have,” he said. “I told them I am so thankful how easy it is to work with them, and they recognize the issues we have. They are jumping right into it and fixing it.”
Kelly said he also appreciates the council’s work, including choosing him to be assistant police chief.
“Having them look at me for a good fit for that position makes me feel good,” he said. “This council we have now is very proactive and easy to work with, and they are just wanting to help facilitate us to get in the right direction with our agency with manpower and facilities. They are doing a great job.”