Council approves adding ninth police officer

BROWNSTOWN — As Brownstown’s town budget was calculated for 2022, a ninth officer for the Brownstown Police Department was included.

During a recent meeting, the Brownstown Town Council unanimously approved increasing the eight-member police force by one. The motion was made by the council’s police department liaison, Tim Robinson, and it was seconded by Councilwoman Crystal Stuckwisch and resulted in a 5-0 vote.

Chief Tom Hanner had made the ninth officer request several times in the past, and he’s ready to start the process to find the right person for the job.

General information about the job has been posted on the department’s Facebook page, and Hanner said he also would post it on the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy’s online bulletin board.

“We need to get on there. We need to show what we offer that may be proposed for 2022,” he said. “Recruitment is going to be huge, just getting someone to apply here. Departments are recruiting very hard, and they are wanting laterals and they are offering lateral transfers.”

Some of the perks about BPD include entry-level pay, retirement benefits, insurance (100% paid for the officer and 75% for dependents), equipment and uniform allowances and a take-home patrol vehicle.

Robinson said the take-home car is not something all departments offer. Hanner said most rural departments do that in the event they receive a call for assistance.

Councilman Mark Reynolds said the percentage the town pays for insurance is not something every employer offers, either.

“You tell me anyplace else that pays that. You only have to pay 25% of your insurance. That’s a heck of a deal,” he said.

While she agreed that’s very nice, Councilwoman Sharon Koch said, “We have to make sure we don’t promise things we can’t continue to pay because I would feel very badly offering it one year and then next year not being able to afford it. That just worries me.”

Koch said she agreed with Stuckwisch saying what’s done for one town department should be done for all.

Hanner said accepting applications now is important because he potentially could have vacancies from officers pursuing other opportunities. The ninth officer would provide added coverage and lessen or eliminate overtime for the department.

“I respect them for being honest about it. I need to keep them,” he said, referring to the officers telling him they are looking into other departments.

“If we have vacancies, we don’t even have a pool to draw from,” he said. “With the times we’re in right now in 2021 and probably going into 2022, the struggle we had just a few years ago, I’m really worried. … I want to be wrong on that.”

He expects to advertise for 30 to 45 days. The hiring process will involve a written test, a physical agility test and a background check. Once a conditional offer is made, there will be a pension board meeting.

“I think right now with the timing of the budget and us needing to add another officer, if we get something out there as general as possible … if you get the interest, then you can move forward along with getting the budget approved,” Robinson said to Hanner. “Then it’s time to get into more specific discussions.”

The hope is to have a ninth officer hired by the first part of 2022.

“Especially nowadays more than ever, we do not want to hire someone without the academy and stick them out there by themselves on the road,” Hanner said. “The last officer we hired that did not have the academy, we didn’t do that. … There’s too much liability there.”