Crothersville police donate car to Clifford department



New lighting and decals adorn the outside of a brown police car, and a new battery is under the hood.

The Clifford Police Department now has its own vehicle.

The 2009 Ford Crown Victoria belonged to the Crothersville Police Department from 2012 to 2016, but the car hadn’t been used since then because the department purchased new vehicles.

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Chief Brent Turner said he planned on getting rid of the car, but when he read a story about Clifford’s town marshal having to use his personal vehicle on the job, he proposed donating the car.

“We’ve got three cars here we’re not using,'” Turner said. “Being from a small police department, when I was in Medora, I knew how it was not having a car. You can’t do your job, so that’s why I was really happy to see that we could help them out.”

Turner shared the story with Capt. J.L. McElfresh, who runs MAC Lighting Solutions with his brother, Travis, and asked if they could help with decals and lighting for the police car.

First, they removed the Crothersville decals and replaced them with new ones for Clifford. Then they put the lighting bar back on the car and a couple of other lights, and they reinstalled the console.

Since it had a bad battery, they took one from another decommissioned police car. It was bad, too, but it was still under warranty, so they were able to swap it out for a new one.

“We worked on it between other jobs and stuff, but we probably had a total of at least 12 working hours on it,” McElfresh said.

He was happy to help another police department.

“Whether it’s through the police department here in my capacity or through our business, being able to help a police department get a vehicle that they can use, it means a lot to us,” he said. “When Brent called and asked us, I didn’t hesitate to say we would do it.”

The Crown Victoria has 107,000 miles on it, but Turner said it should serve Clifford’s needs.

Recently handing over the car to officials of the small Bartholomew County town was a little bittersweet for Turner.

Looking at the records, he determined that was his first car when he started at Crothersville in 2013. It had 64,000 miles on it at the time.

“That was one of the better cars that I can remember when I first came here,” he said.

In January, Crothersville Town Council President Danieta Foster came across a newspaper article about Clifford’s marshal using his own vehicle and shared it with Turner.

Officer Christopher Cooper helped Turner get in touch with the town marshal, who at the time was Charles DeWeese. Turner told him the town would be willing to donate one of their unused cars.

DeWeese’s Chevrolet TrailBlazer wasn’t equipped with flashing lights and sirens, so he couldn’t make traffic stops or transport anyone to jail. In those circumstances, he had to call the Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department for assistance.

Turner also learned DeWeese didn’t get paid for being the only police officer for the town of 235. At one time, he was paid nearly $4,000 a year. Three years ago, though, the town’s finances tightened, and he and town officials agreed to not take any salary.

DeWeese, who started as town marshal in 1993, previously would buy his own police vehicle and lease the car to the town for $1.

Several years ago, he agreed with the town board 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 returning it to the county to be auctioned.

Now, 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, said Danny James, president of the Clifford Town Board.

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 last vehicle Clifford had been using from the county, a 2008 Ford Crown Victoria, stopped running about six 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 were trading in used police cars to find one with lower mileage that wouldn’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.

Crothersville’s donation, though, gives Clifford just what it needs.

“We’re just glad that we could help somebody out,” Foster said. “(The car) was just sitting there, so we were going to sell it, but we probably wouldn’t have gotten a lot out of it, so let somebody that can use it use it.”

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