Police department offers to donate unused vehicle to Clifford


Crothersville Police Chief Brent Turner recently came across a newspaper article about a town in a dilemma.

Turner learned Charles DeWeese, town marshal of the small Bartholomew County town of Clifford, has been using his personal vehicle while protecting the community. The Chevrolet Trailblazer, however, is not equipped with flashing lights and sirens, so he can’t make traffic stops or transport anyone to jail.

Then Turner read that DeWeese doesn’t get paid for being the town’s only police officer. The town’s finances tightened, so he and other town officials agreed to not take any salary.

All of this prompted Turner to help a fellow man in blue.

The Crothersville Police Department has a 2009 Ford Crown Victoria that has been out of commission for about a year and has about 100,000 miles on it. The department obtained the vehicle in 2013, and it was used as a reserve car until being put out of service when new cars were purchased, Turner said.

Turner recently asked the Crothersville Town Council for permission to donate the car to Clifford.

“We’re going to get rid of one or two anyway. It won’t hurt us any to get rid of it,” Turner told the council.

Town attorney Jeff Lorenzo said he would obtain the vehicle’s information from Turner and put together a resolution authorizing the donation for the council to consider at its next meeting Feb. 6. Then the Clifford Town Board will have to pass a resolution to accept the donation.

As a bonus, Turner said a local lighting company agreed to put a lighting package and decals on the car for free.

When he shared that news with DeWeese, Turner said DeWeese was “tickled to death.”

“It’s ready to go,” Turner said. “We’ll just take it up there and drop it off if that’s what’s agreed upon.”

DeWeese said the only issue may be problems he currently is experiencing with the Clifford Town Board. He said a hearing is set up for the middle of February to try to get some things worked out.

“I am so thankful that the police chief there in Crothersville has contacted me, and I intend to follow up on that,” DeWeese said. “But until we have this hearing and get something straightened out with the town board, I’m not at liberty to say a whole lot due to my attorney telling me not to say a whole lot.”

DeWeese has been the Clifford town marshal since 1993.

For the past three months, he has been going on police calls in his Trailblazer as the town board searched for a used police vehicle.

Since he can’t make traffic stops or transport people to jail in his sport utility vehicle, DeWeese has to call the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department for assistance if any circumstance comes up requiring a regular police vehicle.

DeWeese, who retired from Cummins Inc. with more than 35 years of service, also works for a local auction service and serves as a Bartholomew County deputy coroner.

He provides marshal duties for the town — which had a 2016 population of 235 and is northeast of Columbus — from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. due to his daytime responsibilities, and the sheriff’s department helps with emergencies in the town, said Danny James, president of the Clifford Town Board.

Several years ago, DeWeese was paid about $4,000 a year. But for at least three years, he has not received pay.

“Small towns can’t afford to pay someone the same way a deputy or city officer would be paid,” he said. “I’m not in it for the money. You don’t get up some morning and say, ‘Hey, I want to be a police officer.’ It’s dangerous work, and I’ve been doing it since ‘93, and it’s just a fact that I enjoy helping people.”

DeWeese also said he has been a volunteer firefighter since 1975.

“Anyone that knows anything about a volunteer fire department, they know that it costs you to be on the volunteer fire department. You do it because you want to help the community,” he said. “That’s the reason that I have (been town marshal) the last three or four years with no pay because I want to help not only our little community up here but Bartholomew County.”

DeWeese previously would buy his own police vehicle as town marshal and lease the car to the town for $1.

He then agreed with the town board several years ago to switch to a different plan, which involved accepting one of the sheriff’s department’s soon-to-be retired road deputy vehicles, using it until it would no longer run and then returning it to the county to be auctioned.

But that plan isn’t working anymore, as the sheriff’s department is keeping its cars up to 150,000 miles, and they aren’t in good enough shape at that point even for a town marshal’s use, James said.

The amount of money the town put into the last car it received from the county could not be justified because the town didn’t receive anything when it turned the vehicle back over to the county, James said.

“The town wants a car they can call their own,” DeWeese said. “They’re not going to be putting money into a car that the town doesn’t own.”

The last vehicle Clifford had been using from the county, a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria, stopped running about four months ago when it blew a head gasket and the engine needed to be replaced, DeWeese said.

He already had put a set of new tires on the car, at about $500 out of his own pocket, and outfitted the car with lights valued at about $1,200, also from his own money, he said.

The town had earlier replaced the transmission in the car and rebuilt the front end at a cost of more than $4,000, James said.

The cost of the new engine and installation, estimated at up to $5,500, exceeded the car’s value, James said.

The town board attempted to pick up one of the used Columbus Police Department cars that was being prepared for trade-in, but the city decided to trade all of them in as part of its squad replacement program, James said.

Town officials consulted with the buyer of those vehicles to see if one of the retired cars could still be purchased for the town.

James also was going to check around the state for other cities and counties that are trading in used police cars to find one with lower mileage that won’t require a large amount of investment by the town.

James promised the town would get a new police vehicle, but since it isn’t budgeted, the purchase price would need to come out of the town’s general fund, he said.

That, however, may not be necessary since Crothersville has stepped up to the plate to help.

Turner hopes the donation is just what Clifford needs.

Julie McClure, assistant managing editor of The Republic, a sister paper to The Tribune, contributed to this story.

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