New sheriff promises some ‘major changes’
A “good, clean transition” is what Mike Deatrick was hoping for as he officially takes over as Harrison County Sheriff at midnight Dec. 31.
He said he had no reason to expect otherwise.
Deatrick was the Democrat candidate who defeated C. Wendell Smith, the Republican nominee and the incumbent, in the November General Election. Smith had served as sheriff since mid-October 2001 after a Republican caucus picked him to succeed Sheriff William (Bill) Carver, who died of a heart attack.
Deatrick and Smith spent some time together Monday morning working out details about the transition. The men agreed that Smith would turn everything over to Deatrick at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31.
The 57-year-old Deatrick, who started in law enforcement as a reserve officer in 1991 and joined the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. in 1995 as a paid officer, said he was making “some major changes” – all changes he promised during his campaign – in order to have a “safer” Harrison County.
Those changes include having all paid officers, excluding the sheriff, patrol the county and increase the use of reserve officers.
“The detectives will patrol in uniform,” he said. Under the previous administration, the detectives wore plain clothes and worked out of the sheriff’s department.
“We’ve found that if you can get detectives on the scene as quickly as possible, there’s a greater chance of recovery” in burglary cases, he said.
One of his goals is to reduce the county’s burglary rate; another is to crack down on illegal drug activity.
The reserve unit, under the direction of Major Bob Stem – who headed the reserves under former sheriffs, including Clyde Sailor and the late Edward Davis – and Capt. Carl Atwood, will have two types of reserve officers: those who wish to patrol and “work the road,” and those who want to work festivals and ball games. All reserve officers will meet certain requirements, including the 40-hour pre-basic course.
Anyone interested should contact Stem at 738-2195.
The Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept. Horse Patrol will continue to be active, with Deatrick at least temporarily heading it up, but the future of the bicycle patrol, which Smith implemented mid-2002, is undecided. Deatrick said he wanted to do some additional research before making a decision on that.
Capt. Ray Byrne will return to the jail commander’s post, and Deatrick’s wife, Joyce, will once again be the matron. The head dispatcher position is still open, Deatrick said.
Deatrick has returned the sheriff’s department and jail to a smoke-free facility, effective midnight Dec. 31.
In response to rumors that Deatrick had fired several sheriff department employees, he said he has fired no one.
“I’m trying to work with everybody,” he said. “I want to work as a team. If they don’t want to be part of the team … This will be a team effort for Harrison County.”
In response to grumblings about the new schedule, Deatrick said he has canceled all employee vacations until some things are worked out.
Officers can expect to receive additional training under the new administration.
“I’m going to make officer training a priority,” Deatrick said. “I want the officers to pick an area of interest, and I will try to send them to a class about it, and they can come back and tell us what they learned.”
Deatrick said he intends to establish a “hot line” soon that will allow people to call in tips about crime on an unrecorded telephone line, and he hopes to provide information articles to this newspaper.
The new sheriff also will work closely with other law enforcement agencies and the county’s 10 fire departments. Deatrick said his officers will “work with” young people, not harass them.
Deatrick, his wife and his chief, Gary Gilley, attended the Indiana Sheriff’s Association school for sheriffs, chiefs and matrons early last month. Deatrick was one of 49 newly-elected sheriffs in the state.
“I was elected to do this job, and I will do this job,” Deatrick said. “Everything will be for the welfare of the county, not for my personal gain.
“I’m hoping to keep the department moving forward,” he said.
The sheriff’s department is open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.