Source: The Corydon Democrat

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Sheriff wants 'best department in state'

by Ross Schulz

March 11, 2014

Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye took his new officers request to the Harrison County Council Monday night and said it's part of his and chief Wayne Kessinger's plan to make the department the best in the state.

"There's been a need for some time (for more officers) but we had to prove ourselves," Seelye said.

He said his department needed to gain the public's trust before asking for more officers.

"It's important we don't front load our department and all we do is respond to runs," Seelye said.

Since taking office in 2011, Seelye has created a detective bureau and, with the proper training and command re-alignment, the department can now investigate any and all crimes. Nothing is thrown in the filing cabinet to never be opened again, as was the practice in the past, Seelye said.

Council Chair Gary Davis said they've always listened and tried to help the sheriff with his requests, but it's a matter of whether the county has the funding or not. With three new car purchases, the worst-case scenario cost would be about $475,000 for five new officers.

A salary for each officer position will be about $35,000, but, adding in all of the insurance, retirement, etc., it comes out to about $75,000 per officer per year, assuming family insurance is needed.

Davis said the county would have a major problem supporting the department as it stands now if riverboat gaming funds reduced or went away entirely. He said it's probably a matter of when, not if, that happens with threats from surroundings states and within the Indiana Legislature as well.

Later in the meeting, Davis asked the sheriff what would be done differently with the new officers that isn't done now. And Councilman Phil Smith asked if there are any runs now that they department hasn't been able to respond to.

Seelye used a recent pursuit situation as an example to explain the manpower shortage. He said his officer on pursuit of a vehicle was alone in that pursuit for 43 minutes before receiving back-up, and that back up came from a conservation officer from Crawford County.

"The bottom line is the county is growing," he said. "What is expected of us to accomplish is growing."

Councilman Jim Heitkemper asked if he was asking for a higher number of officers in hopes of at least getting some help.

"I said ask for 10 to try to get five," Kessinger said. "Five is what we need."

Seelye said every exit leading out of the jail has "Second to none" written above it.

"Those aren't just words ... When we're out of here in one or five years, our legacy is that we want to leave the best department in the state," he said. "We're already getting close to that."

Seelye's presentation included statistics comparing Harrison with other county and city departments in the area.

Harrison County has one officer for every 1,734 people in the county compared to one for every 1,294 in Floyd County; one for every 552 in New Albany; 444 in Corydon; and 333 in Crawford County.

Davis said he doesn't like to compare counties because no two counties in the state are the same.

Councilman Ralph Sherman said he's never heard a complaint of officers not responding to calls in a timely fashion.

The request will be available to vote on at the next council meeting.

In other business, the council tabled a request of $11,000 for the auditor to purchase iPads for all seven councilmembers, three commissioners, auditor and legal counsel for both the council and commissioners. The system would cut down on paperwork for meetings.

The board approved $26,250 for part-time help for the parks department and $40,000 for overtime for the highway department.

The next council meeting will be Monday, March 24, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon.