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Sheriff: More officers needed

Sheriff: More officers needed
Sheriff: More officers needed
Illustration by Christy Yost (click for larger version)

Harrison County Sheriff Rodney (Rod) Seelye gave a presentation Monday morning to the Harrison County Board of Commissioners, detailing the need for more police officers in the sheriff’s department.
A specific request, with a cost and total number of officers, will be made at the commissioners’ next meeting, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. at the Government Center in Corydon (the meeting is moved from Monday because of Presidents Day).
Seelye said the department is in the middle of a staffing analysis but it has become clear the demands for manpower is increasing.
Since 1996, the department has grown by one officer, from 21 to 22, including the sheriff and chief deputy. Since 2000, the number of runs for service has increased 142 percent, from about 9,000 per year to 23,000-plus last year. The county’s population has continued to grow, from 29,890 in the 1990 Census to 34,325 in 2000 and to 39,364 in 2010.
Estimates show an increase of more than 27 percent in population from 1996 to 2014, with just a 4.8-percent increase in manpower for the sheriff’s department (one officer).
Seelye said the number of dispatchers relaying the information from the public to the officers has increased from eight to 12.
‘The amount of runs and responsibility that has changed is significant,’ Seelye said.
Since 2010, when Seelye took office, he said overall arrests are up 20 percent; arrests for selling drugs are up 1,000 percent; burglaries, 130 percent; and thefts, 77 percent.
‘That’s what we’re focusing on,’ he said. ‘We believe it’s time to increase our staffing for police officers.’
The department has already requested two resource officers for South Harrison schools, but Seelye said they will spend the majority of their time at the schools, not out in the county.
‘It’s a lot to take on; a big decision,’ he said. ‘I’ll give you time to think it over and come back in two weeks. The numbers are very significant here; we’re behind the curve.’
In other business Monday, the board adopted DLZ’s ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Transition Plan, which contains $1.4 million worth of changes in county buildings and properties to be ADA compliant.
Charlie Day, DLZ representative, said the county could use judgment on which improvements need to be made. Some examples of non-compliance include a light switch being 49 inches off the ground instead of 48.
‘Some of these things are glaring and need to be addressed immediately,’ Day said.
The county was basically forced to have the study conducted and approved or face the loss of federal funding.
Commissioner Kenny Saulman wondered why problems exist in the Government Center buildings because they were just remodeled. In the main Government Center building alone, the costs of changes is $73,000 and are even more in the Health and Education Building, at $75,000.
The board also had a discussion session on the quest to find property for a new highway department garage. Five properties (Harbeson, Windell, Scharf and two Miller properties) in and around the Corydon area will be further pursued.